Indians in Iraq safe, trying for direct contact: Sushma Swaraj
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Sunday said Indians in Iraq were safe and efforts were on to establish direct contact with those in conflict zones there even as she chaired a meeting of envoys in the Gulf region to chalk out measures to rescue citizens from the violence-hit country.
The minister, who again met the families of some of the Indians stranded in Iraq, assured them about the well-being of their kin.
Sushma Swaraj told reporters afterwards that the information about Indians in the conflict zone has been collected through the Red Crescent and they are safe.
"It is natural for the families to be concerned. I showed them the letter from our ambassador there, which says the Indians in Iraq are safe," she said.
"We are in touch with them through Red Crescent, but we have not been able to establish direct contact with them so far, as there is constant firing on the streets. We are trying to get in touch with them directly," she said.
The minister, however, clarified that even if direct contact is established with the Indians there, the government may not be able to rescue them immediately due to the ongoing fighting.
"The families would feel assured if we are able to establish direct contact with their kin there (in Iraq), but we may not be able to evacuate them immediately," she said.
The meeting with the envoys, also attended by the ambassadors of Gulf countries posted in India, reviewed the steps taken so far in this regard, ministry officials said.
Briefing the media about the meeting, ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin later said the focus was on knowing the assessment of situation by the envoys, and how they can assist in facilitating the rescue.
"The focus was on what was their assessment about the developments in the region... How they viewed the situation in Iraq and the kind of assistance that can be provided to Indians in Iraq from their respective countries both to those who are in the conflict zone and those who are out of the conflict zone," he said.
"Based on that meeting, the minister decided that certain parts of the Indian community welfare fund that is available for our missions in the Gulf will be used for assisting Indian nationals in Iraq," he said.
According to the external affairs ministry, there are 100 Indians stranded in the conflict zone, along with 46 Indian nurses in Tikrit.
Overall, there are nearly 10,000 Indians in Iraq as per official figures. However, with many Indians being there without legal documents, the actual number runs much higher.
India has set up three camp offices to facilitate the return home of the 10,000 Indians in non-conflict zones in Iraq.
(Posted on 29-06-2014)