Indian captives in Iraq safe: Sushma Swaraj

New Delhi, Jul 24:The 39 Indian workers held captive in Iraq are safe and getting proper food and water, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Thursday. ”The government has got to know from various sources that they (Indian workers) are safe and getting food and water,” the minister told the Lok Sabha.

The Indians are held captive in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The minister, however, refused to divulge the action being pursued by the government to bring them back.  ”Secrecy is the first principle. How can I divulge the action plan?” she asked.

Sushma Swaraj said she had spoken over telephone to all her counterparts in the Gulf countries and met their ambassadors in New Delhi too. The inter-ministerial Standing Group for Repatriation of Indian Nationals from Abroad has put in place robust contingency plans for safe and expeditious evacuation of Indians from Iraq, she said.

She added that as of July 22, around 4,000 Indian nationals had been provided assistance to return to India. ”We have set up special camp offices in Basra, Najaf and Karbala and strengthened our mission in Baghdad through the addition of 25 members,” she said.

Sushma Swaraj spoke in response to a calling attention motion initiated by a Congress MP from Kerala, K.C. Venugopal. Many MPs from Punjab, including Amarinder Singh of Congress and Aam Admi Party’s Dharam Vira Gandhi, sought to know the condition of the Indians in Iraq. Sushma Swaraj also informed the house that she briefs Prime Minister Narendra Modi every evening on the number of Indians coming back from Iraq as well as those held captive there.

The minister asked the MPs to appeal to the current dispensation in Iraq so that the captive Indians are released during the holy month of Ramadan. ”The holy period of Ramadan is on. The house should appeal to those who have kept these Indians captive to release them before Eid as a special gift,” she said