The Centre on Monday said that it has “knocked on all the doors possible” seeking help to secure the release of 41 Indians, who were in captivity of an “unidentified group” in strife-torn Iraq, and that all of them are “alive and well”.
Under attack over not being able to secure the release of the Indians who were abducted two months ago in Mosul, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed Rajya Sabha that out of the 7,000 Indians stranded in conflict zones, about 5,000 have returned. “We still don’t have direct contact with the 41 Indians. But from other sources we have come to know that they are alive and well…I have knocked on all doors seeking help for securing their release. I am waiting like a mother waits for her children to return,” she said.
The minister said India is now focusing on bringing back its nationals from Libya, where battles are on between state forces and Islamic militants.
Swaraj said the government has rushed a former Indian Ambassador to Libya, who she identified as Kumaran, to oversee the evacuation exercise there. “America, United Kingdom, France and China have closed down their embassies. But our embassy is working 24X7. We have deputed 70 field coordinators … 98 nurses have already left Libya and 126 are ready to leave. 236 people are ready to leave from Benghazi to Malta (an island nation north of Libya),” she said.
While replying to a Calling Attention motion on the plight of stranded workers from India in Iraq, Swaraj did not share details of the attempts being made to secure the release of those in captivity, saying the fundamental principle behind such moves is “secrecy”.
On Libya, Swaraj said it was a matter of concern. “Our priority is to get back all Indians stranded there.” She noted that the government was exploring all options to bring back the Indians from there, either through Tunisia border or through Malta after being ferried via sea route from rebel-controlled Benghazi.
She revealed that naval warship INS-Mysore was despatched to assist the evacuation of Indians from Iraq, but since most evacuations have been carried out by air, the battleship has been brought back.
Kiran Bedi tried to establish her credentials as a secular, pro-women candidate.