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PM Modi to visit Doha on February 14; announcement comes after Qatar releases 8 former Indian Navy personnel

Modi is embarking on a two-day visit to the UAE on Monday with an aim to expand overall bilateral ties in a range of areas including trade and investment, energy and digital domain

PTI New Delhi Published 12.02.24, 06:39 PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi File photo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Qatari capital Doha on February 14 after concluding his two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates, an announcement that came hours after Qatar released eight jailed former Indian Navy personnel.

Modi is embarking on a two-day visit to the UAE on Monday with an aim to expand overall bilateral ties in a range of areas including trade and investment, energy and digital domain.

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"After completing his visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the prime minister will travel to Doha, Qatar on February 14 afternoon," Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said at a media briefing.

The foreign secretary said Modi will hold bilateral talks with Qatari Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and other high dignitaries.

The announcement on Modi's visit to Doha came hours after seven out of eight jailed former Indian Navy personnel returned home on Monday morning, nearly three-and-half months after a Qatari court handed them a death sentence that was subsequently commuted to jail terms ranging from three to 25 years.

The former Indian Navy personnel apparently faced charges of espionage, but neither the Qatari authorities nor New Delhi made the charges against them public.

The foreign secretary said India is grateful to Qatar for the return of the Indians.

"We are gratified on their return. We deeply appreciate the decision of Qatar's government and the Amir to release them," Kwatra said.

"We are happy to have seven of those Indian nationals back. The eighth Indian national has also been released and we continue to work with the Qatar government to see how quickly his return to India would be possible," he said.

"The prime minister has himself personally constantly supervised all the developments in this case and has never shied away from any initiatives that would ensure the return of the Indian nationals back to home," he said.

The Navy veterans were on October 26 given death sentences by Qatar's Court of First Instance. The Court of Appeal in the Gulf nation on December 28 commuted the capital punishment and sentenced them to jail terms for varying durations.

The Court of Appeal had also given 60 days to appeal against the prison terms.

In December, Prime Minister Modi had met Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 Summit in Dubai and discussed the "well-being of the Indian community" in Qatar.

It is learnt that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval played a key role in the negotiations with the Qatari authorities in securing the release of the Indians as he paid a number of quiet visits to Doha.

The trade and energy ties between India and Qatar are on an upswing.

Qatar is the largest supplier of LNG to India, accounting for over 48 per cent of India's global LNG imports.

India's Petronet has renewed a contract to buy 7.5 million tonnes of LNG from Qatar annually from 2029 for 20 years and is billed as the largest-ever extension of super-chilled fuel in the world. The original 25-year deal was signed in 1999 and supplies started in 2004.

Qatar has since then never defaulted on a single cargo and neither did it slap penalties under take-or-pay clause when the Indian firm did not take deliveries because prices were too high, Petronet officials said.

Supplies under the extended contract would start after Petronet takes deliveries of 52 cargoes it had failed to take in 2015-16 when prices had shot up sharply.

India-Qatar cooperation has been steadily growing in diverse sectors over the last few years.

PM Modi paid his first visit to Doha in June 2016.

The visit provided an opportunity for both sides to engage at the highest level and impart fresh momentum to the bilateral ties.

It was the highest-level visit from India to Qatar since the visit of then prime minister Manmohan Singh in November 2008.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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