Iraq challenge: 40 Indians kidnapped, India explores all rescue options

iraq-abductionIn a diplomatic challenge for the newly-installed Modi government in New Delhi, forty Indian construction workers have been abducted from the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, controlled by a Sunni militant group.

This is the first time in recent history such a large number of Indians have been kidnapped in a foreign country. The motives and identity of the kidnappers remain hazy. Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesperson of India’s foreign office, said that the Indian government was in touch with international humanitarian agencies and the Iraqi government over the whereabouts of the abducted Indians.

Given the sensitivity of the situation, the spokesperson declined to share the details except for saying that most of kidnapped Indians were from the northern state of Punjab.  He added that the government is in touch with the construction company that employed the workers and international humanitarian agencies to garner more information. In response to a question,  the spokesperson clarified that the Indian government hasn’t received calls for ransom.

akbar-2The abduction of Indian citizens has presented a diplomatic challenge to the newly-installed Modi government in New Delhi, which is working overtime to ensure their safe release.  Iraq is home to around 10,000 Indian nationals. But, fortunately for India, a majority of them are in areas not directly affected by the violence. Nearly 100 are in places “where the security situation is tenuous,” said Syed Akbaruddin.

Besides the 40 construction workers, 46 Indian nurses are stranded in another militant-controlled city, Tikrit.

Against the backdrop of the sharply deteriorating situation and the spike in Shia-Sunni conflict in Iraq, India is exploring all options to evacuate over 87 Indians stranded in worst-hit Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit.

India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is personally monitoring the situation closely and has instructed officials to do everything possible to ensure the safe release of Indians from the strife-torn country and has sent Suresh Reddy, a former envoy to Baghdad, to bolster the Indian mission in that country. “We are not fair-weather friends. The Indian embassy in Baghdad will not be shut down. We shall not leave any stone unturned to ensure the release of Indians in Iraq,” said Akbaruddin.

iraq-oilMr Anil Wadhwa, secretary (east) in India’s external affairs ministry, met Iraq’s ambassador to India Ahmad Tahsin Ahmad Berwari June 17 and discussed the prospects of ground-level cooperation to evacuate Indian nations from the energy-rich Gulf state.

India’s ambassador in Baghdad Ajay Kumar has been in regular touch with Indians living in the Gulf nation. The Indian embassy in Baghdad has set up a 24-hour helpline to help out Indians in distress.

The festering violence in Iraq, which has shut down a major oil refinery in that country, is bad news for India as the conflict may plunge the entire region into prolonged turmoil. The Gulf region accounts for over 70 per cent of India’s oil imports and is home to 7-million strong Indian diaspora, who contribute around $40 billion in annual remittances.




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