The family members of those kidnapped in war-ravaged Iraq on Sunday met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who assured them that the government was taking all steps for the safety and evacuation of their close ones and to directly contact them.
After over one-and-a-half-hour long meeting with the family members, Swaraj said she made them read the written message sent by the Indian Ambassador that they were in “regular touch with red crescent” which has developed contact with them and wrote to us that they are safe.
“I told them the details and also read out the written message of our ambassador. I told them that the details which I had given them earlier was based on telephonic conversation and today I am giving you the written communication in which it has been mentioned that they are in regular touch with red crescent and red crescent communicated with them and wrote that they are safe.
“I made them read the communication. They are satisfied with the written message of the ambassador. I have told them that once we are able to directly communicate with those who are captive then it would be confirmed,” Swaraj said.
Noting that this was her second meeting with the family members, the minister, who had earlier held a meeting of India’s top envoys posted in Gulf countries to discuss Iraq situation, said the government was not able to contact the people there directly due to skirmishes on the ground.
“We are not able to contact them directly as they are fighting on the road and cross firing is going on. We are not able to contact them and I am giving you the information which we are getting through red crescent.
“Even if we are able to contact them directly, we would not be able to bring them immediately and they themselves have said that they are in regular touch with the nurses but they are not able to take them out,” she said.
Iraq is witnessing serious strife with Sunni militants, backed by al-Qaeda, capturing two key cities and marching towards Baghdad. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been displaced in the fighting that broke out on June 10.
India has set up three camp offices to facilitate departure of 10,000 Indians from non-conflict zones.
On Saturday, the spokesperson in MEA had said that the 39 Indians who were kidnapped remained in “captivity” and “unharmed”.
Swaraj told the reporters outside the MEA that the family members had met her on June 19 and on Sunday. They came here to know about the developments in these 10 days as they were worried.
“Once we are able to directly contact any one of them then the families would be more satisfied. Our conversation went on for nearly one-and-a-half hour to two hours and they are now satisfied that government is taking steps…,” she said.
Former Army chief V K Singh, who is a Minister of State with Development of North Eastern Region (independent charge), External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs, was also present in the meeting.
Over 80 persons including parents, siblings and children of those kidnapped in Iraq came to Delhi from Amritsar and met Swaraj who ensured them that the government was taking steps and they are in touch with the Indian Ambassador in Iraq.
Avtar Kaur, whose son Sukhbir Singh is among the 39 abducted Indians in Iraq, said she spoke to her son last on June 15. She said his passport was taken by the company he has been employed with and they were not allowed to talk to their family members.
“Those who have captive our children have also taken away their mobile phones and we have come here to request the government to take steps to bring back our children,” she said.
Gurpinder Kaur, sister of Manjinder Singh who is also among the men abducted in Iraq, said she has come here again as nothing concrete came out after their first meeting with Swaraj.
“We had talked to him (Manjinder) last on June 15 and he told us that ISIS people have taken them somewhere and they have been shifted to some other place but they do not know the location.
“Government is not in direct contact with them and they have been able to contact them only through Red Crescent which have informed that they (stranded people) are safe,” she said.
Manjit Singh G K, President of Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management committee who also accompanied the family members, said Swaraj told them that the government was doing whatever it can do, and not only diplomatic sources but parallel diplomacy was also going on.
“The government has involved several people and red crescent, which has been working there, has assured them that the children are save there and they are not being harmed. The main concern of the families is that the government should establish direct contact with any of their loved ones there and this would give satisfaction to them,” he said.