Stepping up its efforts to rescue Indians stuck in Iraq, the Indian Navy Saturday deployed its warship INS Mysore in the Persian Gulf, even as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has summoned the Indian envoys in Gulf countries for consultations on the Iraq situation on Sunday.
To help Indians exit the non-conflict zones, India has also set up three camp offices to facilitate their departure. The “pro-active” moves are expected to build confidence in the large expatriate community and assuage their concerns.
While INS Mysore, along with another Indian Navy ship INS Tarkash, has been asked to remain on standby, the two warships may be pressed into evacuation operation once decisions in this regard are taken in New Delhi. As reported earlier, the Indian Air Force (IAF) too has been asked to keep two of its C-130 J transport aircraft on standby, citing their requirement in the evacuation of Indians.
MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the 39 Indians who were kidnapped were “unharmed”, adding that they were working on some leads available about them. He said the mission was also in touch with 46 nurses in Tikrit and denied reports of any explosion in the compound they were staying in.
There are close to 10,000 Indians in different parts of Iraq. Asked about how many were in the conflict zone of Mosul and Tikrit, the MEA spokesperson said it would not be possible to give the exact number but there could be “around 100” of them.
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The deployment of INS Mysore and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s Sunday meeting with the Indian envoys posted in Gulf nations including Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia, along with the ambassadors of these countries in India, come on the backdrop of a high-level committee meeting on Friday, which discussed the plan to evacuate 2,000 Indians from Iraq — one fifth of the total number.
It was decided at the meeting that a second team from the Ministry of External Affairs would be sent to Iraq to assess the ground situation as well as the number of Indian nationals willing to return home. Swaraj has approved the dispatch of former envoy Suresh Reddy to Iraq.
Giving the details of the camp offices in Najaf, Karbala and Basra, Akbaruddin said the officers at these camps would go to the place of work of Indians and facilitate their departure if they wanted so. Besides travel documents, the ministry will also provide free air tickets in case they cannot afford them.
Akbaruddin said the ministry was “knocking on every door” to get whatever help was possible for the safety of Indian nationals.