From keeping warships and planes on standby to deploying officials to check on expatriate Indians wanting to return home, the government stepped up efforts on Saturday to evacuate its citizens at a quick notice from violence-wracked Iraq.
INS Mysore, a 6,900-tonnes guided missile
destroyer, reached the Persian Gulf on Saturday as part of New Delhi's plans to evacuate thousands of Indians living in Iraq where Sunni Arab militants are waging a bloody insurrection against Baghdad.
An Indian foreign office spokesman said the government had set up three camp offices in Najaf, Karbala and Basra – which have large concentration of Indians in Iraq – to facilitate the passage back for anyone wishing to return home to India.
Officers posted at these camps will go to the place of work of Indians and facilitate their departure if they want so, the spokesman said. Besides providing travel documents, the ministry will also provide free air tickets in case an Indian national there could not afford them.
Alongside, in a bid to reach out to the kidnapped 39 Indian workers in Iraq, Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj has summoned a meeting of the country’s top envoys posted in the Gulf countries, including Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
Read: Indian Navy warship in Persian Gulf
The spokesman said the kidnapped Indian workers remain in "captivity" and "unharmed", adding the government was working on some leads available on them.
He said the mission in Iraq was also in touch with 46 Indian nurses in The city of Tikrit, and denied the reports that there was any explosion in the compound they were in.
Meanwhile, a navy source said there was no official word on a possible evacuation but INS Mysore had been put on standby.
"We have assets deployed in the western Arabian Sea and these could be used to bring back Indian nationals if required," he added.
INS Mysore was among the warships involved in evacuating Indian nationals from Libya more than three years ago.
Read: US flying armed drones over Baghdad as Iraq battles for Tikrit
The navy has been carrying out anti-piracy patrols in the international waters off the Gulf of Aden since October 23, 2008 to protect Indian sea-borne trade and instil confidence in the seafaring community. Currently, a Talwar-class frigate is deployed there and it could also be used for evacuation if there's an emergency.
The navy had evacuated more than 2,500 Indians and foreign nationals from Lebanon in July 2006 following the war between Israel and the Hezbollah.
The air force is also on standby to evacuate Indians from the strife-torn West Asian nation.
The details of officers and their numbers in the camps in Iraq:
In Najaf - Abu Mathen George (+964 771 6511190), Srinivas Rao (+964 771 6511181), Rakesh Singh (+964 771 6511179) and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
In Karbala: Anil Sapra (+964 771 6511180), Jeewan Singh (+964 771 6511176) and e-mail email@example.com
In Basra: Narasimha Murthy Kuppa (+964 771 6511182), Asif Shah Ahmed (+964 771 6511178), email firstname.lastname@example.org
Full coverage: Iraq on the brink
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