Govt wants Parliament to issue Ramzan appeal to Iraqi captors
WITH 41 Indians languishing in captivity in Iraq for the last 45 days, the Government todaysuggested that Parliament should issue an appeal to the captors to release them as a "Ramzan gift" before Eid next week.
While making the suggestion in the Lok Sabha, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj appeared to send out a message to the Islamist militants holding the hostages by reminding that India had refused to send armed forces to Iraq when the US went there over a decade back.
"The holy period of Ramzan is on. The House should appeal to those who have kept these 41 Indians captive to release them before Eid as a special Ramzan gift," she said while replying to a calling attention motion on the sit- uation in Iraq and the Indians stranded there due to the ongoing conflict.
India has had "very good historical relations" with Iraq and "it must be recalled that several years ago, it was this House that had passed a resolution and we did not send our armed forces to Iraq," Swaraj said.
However, the House did not adopt a resolution as Speaker Sumitra Mahajan took up the next item on the agenda immediately after Swaraj ended her reply to the motion raised by Congress member KC Venugopal, RSP's NK Premachandran and AAP's Dharam Vira Gandhi.
Of the 41 held captive, 31 belong to Punjab, four each to Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and two to West Bengal, Swaraj said.
"While we don't have any direct contact with them, but according to several sources, we have got to know they are safe and alive, they are being given food," Swaraj said.
To questions about the action plan to get them released, the External Affairs Minister refused to reveal details, saying the fundamental principle of such negotiations was secrecy. "Did you get to know our plan when we got the 46 nurses from Kerala released?"
Like the Kerala Government, the Punjab GAovernment was also in touch with MEA and making all efforts to get these kidnapped persons released, Swaraj said.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj speaks in the Lok Sabha in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI