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Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (June 19, 2014)

June 19, 2014

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): Good afternoon friends and thank you very much for being here. I will focus primarily on one issue and that is an update on the position of Indian nationals in Iraq. At the end of that if any of you want to ask any questions on any other issue too, I will take some of them. Given that I have limited time, I will take about four to six questions on the issue which is primary for today, and then a couple of questions on any other issue. Let me start by saying that since we met yesterday, the primary focus of attention of officials in the Ministry of External Affairs has been related to the situation of Indian nationals in Iraq. I now have further information that I can share with you on this matter.

I can now further confirm to you that our initial information based on inputs of the Iraqi Red Crescent of 40 Indian nationals being in custody has been reconfirmed by the Iraqi Government. We have been informed by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry that they also have been able to determine the location where these abducted Indian nationals are being held captive with workers of a few other nationalities.

Our Embassy in Baghdad has been persistently following this matter up with the Iraqi authorities, and it has been strengthened with the arrival of Mr. Suresh Reddy who joined earlier today. I understand that there are several meetings planned during the course of the day between Indian Embassy officials and Iraqi authorities on this subject.

In New Delhi, the crisis management group has met twice today. On both these occasions the External Affairs Minister, Shrimati Sushma Swaraj herself has chaired the meetings. She has also since yesterday talked to the Punjab Chief Minister, the Kerala Chief Minister, and the Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab.

The senior-most official of the Ministry of External Affairs handling issues in the region, Mr. Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East), has had two conversations with the Iraqi Ambassador on this subject.

In both these conversations the information that was conveyed to us in Baghdad was reaffirmed.

Our Mission in Baghdad continues to assist those Indian nationals who would like to leave the region, even from areas where security is not tenuous as yet, and we keep in touch with Indian nationals in areas where security remains tenuous. Let me assure you again that the Government of India is giving the highest priority to the welfare, security and safety of our nationals, and we will keep you informed of further developments in this regard.

If any of you have questions, I am willing to answer them.

Question: Sir, aapne bataya ki unko trace kar liya gaya hai. Kis group ke dvara unko kidnap kiya gaya tha? ISIS group ki baat ho rahi hai, kya vahi hai ya koi aur hai? Aur voh Indians kis position mein hain, kya voh safe hain?

Official Spokesperson: Agar aap mujhe aagya dein toh main angrezi mein javaab dun kyon ki this is a sensitive matter?

Let me start with your last question. There is no safety in captivity. Safety is when people are in places where they are welcome.

As regards where they actually are located, we do have an understanding of the location but given that the matter is something which is under way, there are issues which are being focused on; at this stage I will not be able share information on either the location of that place or what the Iraqi authorities have shared with us in terms of possibilities.

You have to understand, with a situation such as this which is ongoing, where there is information, there are leads, we only provide you with credible, gleaned information which has been verified. So, at this stage I will not go further in those terms.

Question: Sir, joh vahan par kidnap hue log hain, unke kuchh families ka kehna hai ki unki baat hui hai aur unka kehna hai ki hum nahin chhod sakte hain kyon ki aapke passport nahin hai, baahar jayenge toh security aapko shoot karegi aur hamaare upar naam aayega. Is liye jab Indian Government ki taraf se koi bhi responsible person hamein contact karenge toh hum zarur aapko chhodenge. Aisa unke family members ka kehna hai.

Official Spokesperson: Dekhiye, bahut kuchh log bahut kuchh kehte hain. Main aapko kayi baar keh chuka hun, documentation for Indian nationals is never an issue. Agar kisi ko, joh vahan hai aur kahin aur bhi hai Iraq mein, documentation ki koyi zarurat padei toh unke paas contact numbers hain voh immediately contact kar sakte hain.

Main aapko bataunga ki hum joh control room set up kiye hain usmein kal maine bataya tha takreeban 65 telephone calls aaye thei. Donon din mila kar aaj ek ghante pehle tak 130 call aaye thei. Aur in 130 calls mein takreeban 50 se zyada calls thei information ke baare mein, yaane ki log puchhna chahte hain ki bhai hamaare koi jaan pehchan ke hain unke baare mein information dijiye. Aur takreeban 40 call aise aaye hain jin mein log madad chahte hain vaapas aane mein. Un sab ko madad ki ja rahi hai.

Aur main phir bata sakta hun Iraq se hamaare paas yahan par Dilli mein aise 15 call aaye hain jin mein log kuchh madad chahte hain. Jin ko madad chahiye - aapke paas telephone number hai, website par telephone number hai, email address hai - voh bas telephone karein aur documentation ka intazaam kiya jaayega.

Question:
Sir, kal aapne kaha tha ki Friday ko 100 logon ki pehli batch aayegi Dilli. Lekin jis Turkish company ki aapne baat ki thi unhon ne aaj mana kar diya hai ki hum aapko vaapas nahin bhejenge, aur aap Najaf se Basra chale jaayein joh ki 6000 kilometres duri par hai, aur us ke liye 1000 dollar logon se maang rahe hain. Log hamaare yahan channel mein phone karke yeh cheez bata rahe hain.

Official Spokesperson: Aapke channel ne mujhe ek ghanta pehle yeh bataya hai, maine immediately hamaare Ambassador ko bata diya hai yeh, aur iska javaab milega. Kal aapne do ghante mujhe time diya tha, maine un do ghanton mein javaab diya tha. Abhi toh ek ghanta hua hai, hum koshish karenge. Dekhiye, jab aisi mushkilein hoti hain toh ismein vaqt lagta hai. Lekin hamaare taraf se koh kami nahin hai koshish karne mein, aur is par hum zarur koshish karenge.

Question: Sir, 1991 mein jab pehli baar Iraqi crisis hui thi, toh us samay Government of India ne Air India se vishesh roop se ek mission ke tahat vahan par jitne bhi Bharatiya svadesh vapas aana chahte thei un logon ko vapas laya gaya tha. Bahut se aise Indians hain vahan par aur din pratidin vahan par halaat kharab hote jaa rahe hain. Kya sarkar is baare mein bhi kuchh soch rahi hai ki koi ek abhiyan chalaya jayega jisse ki vahan par zaruratmand logon ko jald se jald baahar nikaala ja sake?

Official Spokesperson: 1991 mein main bhi tha vahan par. Us evacuation mein main bhi involved tha. Aapko pata hai 1,40,000 Bharatiya nagarinkon ko vaapas laya gaya tha. Aur us poore operation mein baat yeh thi ki Kuwait ka airport band tha aur Baghdad ka airport band tha. Isi liye logon ko jaana pada tha Amman ya Saudi Arabia. In donon jagahon se plane ud rahe thei aur doori kaafi thi. Kyon ki yeh zyadatar log thei joh Kuwait mein resident thei, unke paas foreign exchange nahin tha aur banks poore band thei kyon ki tab occupation tha Kuwait ka. Is vajah se Bharat Sarkar ne yeh kadam uthaya tha us vaqt. Ab Irbil ka airport khula hai, Baghdad ka airport khula hai. Isi tarah abhi hamaare joh diplomat hain Mr. Suresh Reddy vahan pahunche hain aaj savere. Aur agar koi Bharatiya ko vaapas aane mein koi mushkilein hain, toh hum bilkul madat karne mein taiyar hain.

Question: Commercial flights ke alaava kya kuchh aisi bhi possibilities hain jaise ki Air Force ke planes bheje jayen kyon ki do din pehle Air Force ne kaha tha ki hum iske liye taiyar hain?

Official Spokesperson: I will not get into what others have said. Only when normal communication is not available would we look at other options.

Communications and airports both in Baghdad and Irbil are available. Flights of a commercial nature are flying out. There are no restrictions of travel from these two places. The difficulties that our nationals face are in the affected areas. In those areas the problem remains that it is difficult to use surface transport to reach any of these places. We are looking at various options on this and we will examine what will be the best possible option taking into consideration the local authorities and their view as well as the ground level situation there where we are in touch with humanitarian organisations and other organisations.

Question: Coming back to that quick question, one of the victim’s relative is saying that he had spoken to the victim and he says that …(Inaudible)…to release the hostages to the Iraqi authorities, unless some Indian representative goes there and claims them, they are not going to leave them. Do you have any information on that?

Official Spokesperson: I will not answer speculative suggestions that you are making. As I told you, it is very simple for anybody to pick up the phone, call anyone, and we will try and arrange as far as possible documentation. Documentation we have arranged even by faxes. Documentation can be sent by other means also. Documentation is not an issue in the return and repatriation of any Indian national.

Question: What is the channel that you will be pursuing? Will you be talking to Iraqi authorities and they will be pursuing it or would there be a chance of back channel …(Inaudible)…?

Official Spokesperson: As I mentioned to you yesterday, every avenue will be pursued, every channel will be examined, we will utilise every opportunity to ensure the safety and security of our nationals – frontdoor , backdoor, trapdoor, everything.

Question: Sir, because these people have been kidnapped, if there is a ransom demand, would the Indian Government be willing to pay this ransom demand?

Official Spokesperson: There has not been any such demand.

Question: Mr. Akbaruddin, what fresh dates is the Government of India proposing to the Japanese Government for the Prime Minister’s much looked forward visit to Japan?

Official Spokesperson: Perhaps you are aware that the Prime Minister of India is very keen to visit Japan at an early date. Prime Minister has written to Prime Minister Abe on this subject. The date that we were looking in early July, will need to be reworked in the light of the recent communication between Prime Minister and Prime Minister Abe. The two Governments will obviously be in touch and work on this issue.

Question: …(Inaudible)…had spoken to Mr. Abe?

Official Spokesperson: I think I said Prime Minister has written to Prime Minister Abe on this subject.

Question: When did he write this letter to Prime Minister Abe?

Official Spokesperson: In the last 24 hours.

Question: Akbar, now that this crisis is going on since yesterday at least, you have confirmed about the hostages in Iraq, has the Government of India taken any steps to make sure that more kidnappings in the same country Iraq do not happen?

Official Spokesperson: Rajiv, we are talking of a tenuous security situation. We are talking of a situation where in those affected areas institutions have collapsed, interlocutors are not present. I would like to ask you or anyone else what steps can be taken in a situation where authorities are no more what they were a few days ago. As regards the rest, I have already explained to you the detailed steps that we have taken.

In situations where there exists no single authority, where exist no established interlocutors, we are trying to do our best that is possible in the circumstances. And let me assure you, we will continue to do our best because this is not about work, this is about ensuring lives of our citizens, and we will do everything possible. I think I have explained in great detail on that subject.
With that we end this discussion.

Thank you very much.

(Concluded)

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