Indian hostages in Iraq: India seeks Turkey’s help

iraq_5_1_0_0_0_0With the extremist Sunni terror group ISIS continuing its assault in the Middle East, the lives of 39 Indian constructions workers hang in the balance as they remain in the ISIS’s captivity for almost nine months. Against this backdrop, India has sought Turkey’s help to secure the release of the Indian hostages from Iraq, who were kidnapped from Mosul, Iraq, last June.

India’s External Affair Minister Sushma Swaraj has been pursuing the issue over the past months through various channels and took it up with her Turkish counterpart, Mr. Mevlut Cavusoglu, who was in India on a short visit. Although intelligence agencies have been unable to locate the exact whereabouts of the Indian hostages and their captors, the talks with Turkey have brought fresh hope for their secure rescue.

India was faced with a similar situation last year when the ISIS held 46 nurses captive, later releasing them unharmed. Their safe return to India, after much back and forth across multiple diplomatic channels, showed the diplomatic prowess of the newly-elected Modi government.

In the current case, according to sources, Mr. Cavusoglu said that the ISIS’s information flow was very “restricted” and no concrete details were available on the whereabouts of Indian workers. Recent ISIS killings of hostages from Japan have caused concern for the safety of the Indian hostages. Some sources had also claimed earlier that the hostages had been killed.

The Middle East is home to 7-million strong Indian diaspora, which sends home around $40 billion in remittances. In view of safety of the citizens, the government has been following the events in the Middle East very closely and even issued a travel advisory telling citizens not to go to Iraq and those already present to return. However, most Indians continue to work in the region largely due to economic necessity.

The two ministers also spoke about India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled visit to Turkey in November this year to participate in the G-20 meet. Turkey has been keen to increase trade with India and expressed willingness to be a part of the ‘Make in India’ initiative. Regional stability, terrorism and the Afghan situation was also discussed.

(Deepak Giri contributed inputs for this article) 

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