Propaganda vs Sovereignty- Is Indian Navy Exporting Spies?

Sara Nazir
Sara Nazir

Last year, eight Indian nationals were detained in Qatar for spying on an Israeli submarine program. According to news reports, the eight individuals are former Indian Navy officers who were detained in late August. They have been named as Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Amit Nagpal, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, and Sailor Rajesh. They are charged with gathering intelligence on Qatar’s secret plan to purchase advanced submarines made in Italy that are hard for enemies to locate. Although no formal charges were filed at the time of their arrest in August 2022, it was widely believed that they were spying for Israel. Indian Navy officers have been exposed as spies for different countries in a number of instances in the past.

These former Indian Navy Officers are charged with disclosing secrets about a submarine with stealth capabilities. As part of a bigger initiative, Qatar government and an Italian shipbuilding company signed an agreement of understanding to jointly develop submarines. According to reports, the submarines that Qatar is pursuing are a smaller version of the ambitious Italian submarine project known as the U212 Near Future Submarine, which was developed in partnership with a German company. It is pertinent to take into account that Qatar is planning to operate submarines in the Persian Gulf- being the second country to deploy the technology in the said region. Development of naval bases and the provision of naval vessels are also part of the deal between Qatar and the Italian shipbuilding firm ‘Fincantieri’ that includes in addition to the submarine project.

According to Indian media, all the Indian nationals caught in Qatar were senior staff members of Dahra Global Technologies and Consulting Services, a firm that offered assistance on a Qatari program for purchasing high-tech submarines constructed in Italy to possibly evade radar detection. Israel hasn’t made any official statement on the matter, but it has a stake in stopping the spread of sophisticated military technology throughout the Middle East because it worries that it would undermine its US-backed military edge. An Indian media outlet quoted an intelligence source as saying: “We have made every effort to persuade our counterparts in Doha that neither India nor its citizens were engaged in hostile intelligence operations against the emirate. However, the Qataris insist that Israel was in fact receiving information about their submarine program through clandestine means.

Dahra Global is being forced to shut down as a result of the incident, and all of the Indian staff have been ordered to evacuate. Over seventy-five of these people, or the majority, are former members of the Indian Navy who, after receiving notice have been terminated on May 31, 2023.

- Advertisement -

There have been a number of instances where Indian people, including military personnel, have been detained on espionage-related charges. RAW recruits Indian nationals and former officers in multiple companies under bogus pretenses to sabotage international projects. One such incident happened in 2014 when the United Arab Emirates (UAE) detained and eventually found guilty two Indians for giving Indian intelligence secret data about the UAE. It has been proven that convicted spies had communication with employees of the Indian embassy in the United Arab Emirates.

Similarly, a German court found an Indian couple who resided in Germany guilty of espionage in 2019. The couple admitted their involvement with Indian RAW and confessed to collecting and giving the Indian intelligence agency data about Kashmiri and Sikh people living in Germany. A serving Indian Naval officer named Kulbhushan Jadhav was also detained by Pakistani officials in March 2016 in the Pakistani province of Balochistan on charges of backing militancy and espionage for the Indian intelligence agency RAW. Later, in his confessional statement, Kalboshan admitted that his purpose in Balochistan was to carry out anti-state activities around the CPEC project and to target Chinese nationals.

All evidence found till now suggests that Indian officers detained in Qatar are in fact Indian spies and that the Indian government was involved in this espionage endeavor. This could potentially lead to a diplomatic strain between both countries and stricter scrutiny of India-sponsored activities within Qatar. Furthermore, it raises questions about India’s lack of regard for the sensitive national interests of fellow sovereign nation-states as it continues to export spies to Israel and other allies.

Share This Article
The author is a gold medalist in Strategic Studies from Air University Islamabad and currently teaching as visiting faculty in a university based in Islamabad. She regularly writes on South Asian security and strategic issues.
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *