Distraught family members of sailors being held hostage by Somali pirates knocked on the doors of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday to secure their release. The meeting, however, did little to stoke up their hopes.
"Time is ticking away for us. We have been given no reassurance. I just feel like beating my head," said Sampa Gulia, wife of one of the sailors.
Leaders of the opposition in in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj accompanied the families to the PM and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to put pressure on the Centre. Singh assured all efforts would be made to secure the release.
Officials said there's little the government could do other than putting pressure on the owners of the merchant vessels. Jurisdiction issues complicate the option of launching a military offensive, they said.
As the opposition cornered the government in Rajya Sabha, external affairs minister SM Krishna made the same point. He said the only way out was to pursue efforts through back channels and ship owners.
He said it was vital for India to be objective in its assessment of the situation and the government could ill-afford to endanger the lives of sailors. He said, "When the Americans tried to carry out an assault on some of the ship pirates, four of them were killed… so we will have to be restrained."
He described the hostage issue as a "disturbing and serious" one. He said Indian diplomats were in touch with the countries concerned and owners of hijacked ships to resolve the problem.
BJP's SS Ahluwalia, however, questioned how the government intended to protect Indian sailors given that the ship owners had submitted in writing they did not want their vessels back as it was costly affair.
He asked the government if it there were any plans to seek the support of the UN Security Council to resolve the crisis. Ahluwalia also wanted to know why India was not emulating the Spanish navy to end the miseries of its nationals. BJP's M Venkaiah Naidu asked the government if it would take lead in moving the UNSC to find a lasting solution to the rising incidents of piracy.