Delhi's hands tied over Iraq

Government reiterates hostages are unharmed
Last Updated 28 June 2014, 21:24 IST

The volatile security situation in the conflict zones of Iraq is holding  India back from launching any major operation to evacuate its nationals from the West Asian country. 

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants the government to be seen standing by the Indians stranded there. 

The 39 kidnapped Indians are yet to be released although 10 days have passed since New Delhi confirmed that they had been abducted. The government, however, reiterated on Saturday that they remained unharmed, despite being held hostage.

None of the 46 Indian nurses stranded in Tikrit could be evacuated, although gun battle purportedly escalated in its vicinity, with the Iraqi Army trying to dislodge militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) to regain control of the city.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) prodded the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to do all it can to help those who are in relatively safer places. The push from the PMO is apparently aimed at insulating the government from criticism from Opposition in Parliament during the Budget Session, which is set to commence on July 7 next.

Modi’s office nudged the MEA to send more officials from its missions in other countries in the region to Iraq in order to supplement efforts of the Indian Embassy in Baghdad to assist Indians, particularly those who are away from the conflict zones, but want to return home. The Indian Navy has deployed its warship “INS Mysore” in the Persian Gulf to help evacuate Indians, if necessary. The Indian Air Force has kept its large transport aircraft ready as well.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has summoned India’s envoys to the Gulf countries for a meeting in New Delhi on Sunday to discuss the escalating conflict and its implications in the region. They will also explore options to secure release of the kidnapped Indians as well as to evacuate other citizens from elsewhere in Iraq.

India’s ambassador to Iraq and envoys to Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia will attend. They will also later meet the Gulf nations’ envoys to India to seek assistance of the governments of those countries.

(Published 28 June 2014, 21:24 IST)

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