September 23, 2023

8 former Indian Navy officers, working for Qatar company, being held in Doha

Eight former Indian Navy officers, working in Qatar with a company providing training and other services to the Qatari Emiri Navy, are in custody in that country.

The Indian Embassy in Doha is said to be aware of the incident, according to sources.

The incident came to light after a tweet Tuesday from the handle of @DrMeetuBhargava — the Twitter bio identifies her as an ‘Educator and a spiritual being’ — who said the veterans have been in “illegal custody/detention” in Doha for “57 days”.

The post tags the Prime Minister and several ministers including External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Puri.

The former Navy officers worked for a company called Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, The Indian Express has learnt. The company describes itself as a “local business partner” of the Qatar defence, security and other government agencies, and its key competencies as defence equipment operation and maintenance.

The group CEO, Khamis Al Ajmi, is a retired Squadron Leader of the Royal Oman Air Force.

Among the eight Indians in custody is Commander Purnendu Tiwari (retd), the managing director of the firm. He received the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award in 2019 from the then President of India, Ram Nath Kovind.

His profile on the company website says he commanded a minesweeper and a large amphibious warship when he served in the Indian Navy.

There are no details about why the men were picked up and what the charges against them are. The men were granted a consular visit by officials of the Indian mission in Doha earlier this month, The Indian Express has learnt.

Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, could not be reached for comment.

The company has impressive credentials posted on its website. Its work has received praise from the Indian mission in Doha. Ambassador Deepak Mittal has said the company was doing “great work” to “build capacities and capabilities of Qatar Defence Forces”.

“You are testament to the vision of the Indian leadership to partner with friendly countries and share our experiences,” he has said.

Periasamy Kumaran, the previous ambassador, had praised the company’s work for its “effective showcasing of India’s defence capabilities and has created new opportunities for cooperation and collaboration” between the two countries.

Calls to phone numbers listed on the company website went unanswered.