Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Qatar after concluding his United Arab Emirates (UAE) visit, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Monday, hours after seven of the eight Navy veterans facing death penalty in Doha reached New Delhi.
Briefing the media, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said the government was working with Qatar to bring back the eighth Indian national. Without getting into whether the latest move constitutes a royal pardon by Qatar or it was a legal release, Kwatra said the government appreciated the decision of Doha government and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamid al Thani for releasing them.
“The prime minister has himself constantly supervised all the developments in this case and has never shied away from any initiatives that would ensure the return of Indian nationals back home,” Kwatra said. On Wednesday, the PM will have a bilateral meeting with al Thani.
This will be Modi’s second visit to Qatar, the last visit being in June 2016, though the PM had met the Qatari Emir multiple times in recent years.
In October last year, a local court in Qatar had handed the death penalty to these personnel who had been employees of Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, a private firm providing training and related services to Qatar’s armed forces. The firm was accused of being used by Israeli intelligence to garner information on a top secret defence programme in Qatar, Doha media had reported.
The Indian personnel had been detained in August 2022. However, the Qatari authorities had not revealed the charges framed against them. The Indian embassy in Doha reportedly first learned about the detention of the veterans in mid-September. It was subsequently granted consular access to them in October and December.
The upcoming visit is expected to see a range of potential arrangements being reached across multiple areas, Kwatra said. “Currently, both sides are busy discussing various understandings and agreements that could be finalised, signed, and exchanged during the visit,” Kwatra said.
In the first eight months of the current financial year, more than 45 per cent of India’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports originated from Qatar, followed by the UAE (14.1 per cent), the commerce department data shows.
Last week, India’s flagship LNG terminal owning company Petronet LNG announced a long-term deal to source 7.5 million metric tonnes per annum of LNG from Qatar. Announced on the sidelines of the India Energy Week 2024, the deal will see LNG supplies being be made-on-delivered basis by state-owned QatarEnergy from 2028 till 2048.
Maritime trade, ports and logistics, railways, fintech connectivity, and investments in digital infrastructure and arrangements for the protection and promotion of capital flows are also under discussion with Qatar, Kwatra revealed. India's bilateral trade with Qatar currently stands at $20 billion.
Temple inauguration in UAE
Modi’s visit will kick off in the UAE, where he is set to inaugurate the country’s first Hindu mandir in Abu Dhabi, constructed by the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. This will be Modi’s seventh visit to the UAE, and the fifth meeting with UAE leader Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the past eight months.
The PM will participate in the world government summit, an annual event in Dubai that brings together leaders for a global dialogue about governmental process and policies with a focus on issues of futurism, technology innovation, the MEA said.
The UAE has become India's second largest export destination, and the third largest trading partner with bothways total trade of $ 85 billion. The UAE is also the fourth largest source of FDI into India.