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Qatar sentences 8 Indian officers to death for spying for Israel 

October 27, 2023 at 2:39 pm

The national flag of Qatar [Matthew Ashton/AMA/Getty Images]

Qatar has sentenced eight former Indian naval officers to death for allegedly spying on its submarine programme for Israel. The convictions underscore the deepening strategic ties between Israel and India, brought together by their shared ethno-nationalist ideology.

India has expressed shock at the sentencing of its citizens, who were detained last year in Qatar, a key mediator in negotiations between Israel and Hamas over civilian hostages. While Qatar has no formal relations with Israel, it has facilitated talks between the Palestinian militant group and the apartheid state.

The eight, who were arrested in August 2022, were working for a company called Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, which was described as a “local business partner” of Qatar’s defence and other agencies. Though no official charges were brought against them at the time, it was widely suspected that they were spying on behalf of Israel.

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According to the Financial Times, the men will be able to appeal against their sentences.

The convictions risk sparking a diplomatic dispute between New Delhi and Doha, which have a strong trade relationship. As India tilts westward, it has also boosted energy and business ties with Gulf states like Qatar. This presents diplomatic challenges as these countries remain hostile to Israel despite quiet cooperation. The spying convictions represent an awkward new feud between Doha and New Delhi that was likely unintended.

Israel and India have formed an ever-closer partnership based on a common sense of nationalist identity rooted in religious fundamentalism and ethno-nationalism. This has led to major defence deals, intelligence sharing and diplomatic backing at the UN.

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The burgeoning Israel-India relationship is concerning to many who warn that two ultra-nationalist governments are encouraging each other’s worst impulses. However, leaders in both countries see ideological allies that can provide international cover for their controversial domestic policies.

While India tries to balance its ties, the case shows how deep the embrace with Israel has become. Shared ideological fervour is drawing the two countries together despite ripple effects. This alliance appears set to continue, for better or worse.