Indo-Qatar tangle and probable actors

| Updated: 15 November, 2023 3:48 pm IST

Look, I am not emphasizing that this is why the eight Indian officers got arrested by the Qatari government, but we can find a circumstantial tell-tale if we roll back to last year. The Nupur Sharma fiasco hit the media in May 2022. The fallout of it continued for a couple of months. The Indian ex-naval officers working for the defence service provider Dahra Global were arrested in August 2022. Most of this incident was kept under the radar, and it only surfaced when a Pakistani media outlet ran the news – to probably get back at India, and Mr Manish Tiwari of the Congress Party took it up in the Parliament.

The official story, as we have come to know – quite late in the day if I may add – is that these eight officers are spies. They have apparently shared secret data with Israel, details pertaining to midget stealth submarines that Italian shipbuilding company Fincantieri, with a project partner, was building for the Qatari naval defence forces.

WHY IS ISRAEL SILENT?

Israel has had no comments so far. This is quite interesting, because though this update about Fincantieri being commissioned to build midget submarines by an undisclosed ‘client’ was shared in the Italian parliament, and Qatar is of the opinion that Israel is ‘scared’ of Qatari supremacy in the surrounding seas, hence they could well try to spy on Qatar, it makes little sense here. A local Israel-Hamas war has the US Navy docked close to Israel for any support; it is a stretch to propose that Americans would sleep if Israel gets entangled in a regional conflict that calls for the deployment of navies of its enemies.

Israel, may or may not have the tech to counter a stealth submarine that Qatar is trying to build (if they are trying; that is a big IF), but with the US Navy to watch its back, it perhaps doesn’t need to. So why is Israel silent? Is it because Qatar is the current negotiator for the release of the Israeli hostages that are with Hamas? Something that is more important and urgent to Bibi than some charges brought against a few Indians?

IS PAKISTAN INVOLVED?

There is a Pakistan angle, and though speculative, that is quite interesting too. Qatar, like Pakistan, is a synthetic state. Yes, it can create wealth, which Pakistan cannot, but that is another point. In times of geopolitical necessity, it is probably this very synthetic nature that has brought these two states very close to each other. They share quite deep ties – which translate into extremist religious endorsement through finances other than billions of dollars in aid for Pakistan, LNG supplies, army hiring programs, defence tech exchange and so on. And we have learnt that it is very Pakistani to bring petty moves in bigger games: like scoring a couple of brownie points by detaining and/or carrying out death penalties against individuals, at a time when they are expected to create long-term strategies on the grand chessboard.

Putting it bluntly, Pakistan had one big idea – Islamist terrorism as a strategic tool. The rest of their geopolitics usually hover within the domains of kidnapping, jailing, and/or murdering vulnerable individuals, whether it is journalists like Syed Saleem Shahzaad, activists like Akbar Bugti, or foreigners like Kulbhushan Jadhav. Qatar might have taken a leaf out of the Pakistani playbook in this case, knowing that Israel would remain quiet, and hoping that smaller incidents like these wouldn’t impact its larger economic and trade ties with India. On the other hand, if push comes to shove, these eight can be used as leverage against New Delhi to negotiate for concessions here and there.

BUT WHY?

There is one more thing to consider here: what if what Qatar says is actually true? Could it be that we – in our indignance over the incident – are overlooking the fact that spying is quite normal and that Indians are no exception? After all, don’t we have hundreds of Indians right here in India employed in the mainstream media and academia that solicit both covertly and overtly for the Soros-Globalist cabal, or the Chinese lobby? We even have politicians – people validated by Indian voters – who openly act as foreign agents. So why should it be very different for Indians based abroad?

Along the same line, consider this: Qatari officials had also arrested the founder and the CEO of Dahra Global – an Omani ex-Air Force officer named Khamis Al Ajmi. His release was negotiated by his government a few months later. Subsequently, Dahra Global had to change names, create a different organization, appoint a whole new batch of top officials, remove all references to India and Indians working in it and was mandated to terminate the services of all Indians. Is it not too much of an initiative to take for just eight Indians, unless it is something way bigger?

But if these charges are trumped up, then what could be the reason behind the death sentence?

THE DEMOCRAT ANGLE

Ever since the discovery of gas, Qatar – that was otherwise a nominal state and a vassal of Saudi Arabia – began harbouring bigger and bolder ambitions. It convinced the Americans to build their base, it has also recently convinced the Turks for the same; it has been pumping billions for jihadist causes around the world; it has been spewing religious intolerance and hatred through its mouthpiece Al Jazeera, and while it has been projecting itself as a ‘negotiator’ for different peace processes, it has actually been trying to be the spanner in serious peace initiatives, by courting Turkey, ISIS, or sundry jihadists – actors for whom dominance and not peace, matters.

All of these could well have Democrat imprints on them. Turkey is a NATO member that the Democrats love; Democrats such as Ilhan Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Taleb etc. and many others love and encourage the Islamists and jihadists; the recent government under Joe Biden has been quite critical of Saudi Arabia, UAE, the Abraham Accords, and the Gulf initiatives towards stabilization of the Middle Eastern geopolitical flux.

So do not be surprised if you come to learn tomorrow that this tendency of Qatar to punch above its weight is a Globalist-Democrat gift and that Qatar is their pawn to keep the GCC nervous just like Pakistan is a pawn to destabilize the subcontinent. And the sentencing of the eight Indians is an oblique Democrat nudge to keep the ruling party at New Delhi looking reactive, with the general elections just around the corner. [EAM Jaishankar has visited noted Globalist mouthpieces like Blair and Cameron since this incident; is it to signal to the USA that the BJP-led government is ticking the right boxes?]

If that is indeed the case and can suffice for now, the two long-term options for India could be to diversify its gas dependence and move towards African suppliers, and to encourage Indians living in Qatar to migrate to favourable and friendly countries (Qatar definitely does not fall in that category). While the first exercise is something that would have been carried out anyway, it is the second one that might be engineered in the wake of this affair.

After all, as I always say, every government in this multipolar setting needs to be ready to face the consequences of the moves that they make on the chessboard. Why should Qatar be any different?

Arindam Mukherjee is a geopolitical analyst and the author of JourneyDog Tales, The Puppeteer, and A Matter of Greed.

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