It Could Go Kulbhushan Jadhav Way! Batchmates Of Indian Navy Officials In Shock Over Qatar Death Penalty

The news of 8 Indian Navy personnel sentenced to death in Qatar without due process of justice has sent shockwaves amongst the family and friends of the incarcerated in the Middle East country. The episode has been “unprecedented” in the history of modern India.

While the ‘course-mates’ (people who trained in the same course with him in the National Defense Academy) and wives have launched a passionate campaign to whip up public sentiment to get these navy personnel home, the old parents of one of the Indian veterans are not even aware of the possibility of gallows that their son is facing.

“Hope is all we have,” former Indian Navy aviator Commander KP Sanjeev Kumar told the EurAsian Times. “They have been incarcerated since Aug 30 last year. Charges have not been made public or even shown to the families. Of the six charges, three were dropped,” Kumar said while showing his disbelief over the opaque justice process that has led to the death sentence.

“I fear this case may go the Kulbhushan Jadhav way (another deplorable case, the trail of which case seems to have gone cold) unless we move with alacrity,” Kumar says in a heartfelt blog. He remembers the “obsession with propriety and fairness” of his course-mate Sanjeev, fondly known as “Chote” or “Don” in his course. “His small frame hides an outsized heart and rock-solid patriotism while his ever-helpful nature earned him the latter epithet,” Kumar recalls.

“Another accused, course-mate, Cdr Amit Nagpal (78 NDA), “Naggy” as we call him in our circles, is a quintessential gentleman — a man of few words and impeccable character whom I first met when we ran into our NDA course-mates on ships of the training squadron at Kochi,” Kumar says, while adding: “A communication and electronic warfare specialist, he knows the value of ‘indiscretion’ and ‘radio silence’ better than most.”

Still trying to wrap his head around the development, Kumar laments: “How did these character certificates suddenly dissolve into a death sentence?” These seven officers and one sailor on death row have had impeccable service records in the Indian Navy and had served in many sensitive postings.

The EurAsian Times spoke to friends of another officer P Sugunakar, a son of a former Sainik School Korukonda teacher. His parents are oblivious to the ill fate that has befallen their son.

“We are all distressed and shattered and devastated by the news. His wife, Vyjayanti, and his son and daughter are in shock and worried sick. They are living in fear. They do not know what to do. The worst part is, they don’t know what he has done,” said K Kalyan Chakravarty, Sugunakar’s brother-in-law.

The son of two teachers, Sugunakar joined the Navy soon after he turned 18 and worked in the Naval Engineering Corps, his family said. He earned his BTech (Mechanical) from the Naval College of Engineering and also did an MSc in Defence and Strategic Studies from Defence Services College, Wellington.

He retired in November 2013 and worked for Hindustan Shipyard Limited for a few months before joining Doha-based Al Dahra Global Technologies.

India-Qatar Defense Collaboration

The eight naval veterans worked for a Qatari firm, Al Dahra, before they were charged with espionage and later sentenced to death. Following an MoU signed between India and Qatar for cooperation in the defense sector, the firm was involved in imparting training to Qatar Armed Forces Officers.

Following the arrest in August 2022, Dahra Global Technologies, based out of Doha, has gone defunct, leaving the naval veterans alone. What has shocked the Indian Ministry of External Affairs is that Qatar, one of the wealthiest countries today, has traditionally enjoyed a warm and cordial relationship with India.

The veterans were thrown into solitary confinement, and India was given consular access on October 3, 2022. It was following this that they were lodged in a double occupancy cell and were allowed to call their family members in India.

Commander (retired) Purnendu Tiwari, who is among the detained Indians, served as Al Dahra’s managing director and commanded several warships while serving with the Navy. The rest of those convicted include Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Commander Amit Nagpal and Sailor Rahesh.

‘Espionage’ Charges Or Misunderstanding

According to a report carried by The Week magazine in India quoting sources, it was just a “friendly conversation” by a group of eight former Indian Navy personnel with an Indian diplomat posted at Doha three months before the arrest that sparked suspicion among Qatari authorities that secret information may have been exchanged.

“The ex-Navy men had interacted with a diplomat they were acquainted with because of a previous professional relationship. It was purely friendly banter and nothing more. But it got the Qatar authorities suspicious,” a source told The Week on condition of anonymity.

The India-Qatar ties had seen an uptick after Indian commandos arrested a Dubai princess, Sheikha Latifa, trying to escape her family in her luxury yacht near Goa and handed over the Gulf regime in 2018. The Indian government kept mum over the episode despite a UK court naming Indian special forces behind the picking up of the royal family member.

Following the 2018 incident, the Indian and the Qatari navies began a naval military exercise called “Zair al Bahr,” with the first edition being held in 2019 and the second edition being held in 2021.

Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad

Indians In Foreign Jails On Espionage Charges

Kulbhushan Jadhav is another retired Indian naval officer in Pakistan captivity facing the prospect of a death sentence. His arrest was announced by Pakistan in 2016.

The Pakistanis captured him along the border with Iran, where he said he was doing business. He was convicted of espionage charges and was sentenced to death. Jadhav and the Government of India have denied the Pakistani charges of espionage.

Sarabjit Singh was an Indian national who died in a Pakistan jail of assault while he was on death row. Singh was arrested in 1991 and was sentenced to death for a bomb blast that killed 14 people. Reuters reported that Singh’s family claimed that he had crossed over into Pakistan in a drunken state and was innocent.

  • Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
  • She can be reached at ritu.sharma (at)
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