Expressing grave concern over the ISIS attack on Iraq and advances made by insurgents, the government today assured the nation that it had some emergency plans for evacuation of Indians from the conflict zone and was using all means to secure freedom to 41 Indian captives. Facing strong pressure from the Opposition for coming out with the latest situation regarding the Indian workers held hostage by some extremist group in Iraq, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the government had no direct contact with the captives, but it was in touch with the countries of the region and leaving no stone unturned to get them freed. Her assurance came in her opening remarks on a Calling Attention Motion on the issue and later in her response to the Members’ remarks. The Calling Attention Motion had been moved by K C Venugopal(Congress) and N K Premachandran (RSP) and Dr Dharamvir Gandhi of the AAP. She said the government had come to know from many sources that the captive Indians were alive, safe, and being given food.
Responding to the Opposition’s insistence that the government should disclose its action plan for bringing the captives back, Ms Swaraj said it was not possible for the government to do that as secrecy was the first principle of such operations. ” You did not know in advance about our plan to bring back the 46 nurses back home to safety,” she said. Till July 22, she said, as many as 4,000 Indians had been brought back from the country.
The EAM said the Indian missions in Iraq were helping the Indians by all means, securing travel documents to those who did not have it and also providing air tickets to those who could not afford it.
There were a total of 23,000 Indians in Iraq which could be classified into three categories. Most of them, about 15,000, were in Kurdistan which was safe, 41 were captive, and the rest were stranded. Ms Swaraj said she had talked to all her counterparts in the Gulf countries and briefed all the ambassadors. Besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi was taking updates daily.
Ms Swaraj urged the House to should issue an appeal to the captors of the Indian workers to release them as a gift to India in the month of Ramzan as this country had always great friendship with Iraq. ”These people are innocent and belong to a country which is a great friend to Iraq,” should be the message from the House, the External Affairs Minister said. Earlier, speaking first on the Motion, Mr Venugopal wanted to know the specific steps being taken by the government and also whether any ransom demand had been made by the captors of the Indian workers. He also urged the government to tell what it was doing for the rehabilitation of the 46 Kerala nurses who had been brought back from Iraq. Mr Premachandarn also underlined the importance of rehabilitation and demanded that the Centre come out with a package. Mr Dharamvir Gandhi asked for setting up an all-party Committee to keep the families of the captive Indians informed about their latest situation.
Deputy Leader of the Congress in the House Amarinder Singh wanted to know whether there was any demand for ransom for the release of Indian hostages.