This spells the end to a particularly horrifying ordeal for the Indian nurses trapped in Iraq. The government did pull out all the stops for their release from the ISIS militants and not too many were optimistic that this saga would have a happy ending.
The release of the nurses seems to mark a new phase in Indian diplomacy, which has not always been on top of such things when it comes to our citizens abroad.
Unlike the Americans, who act with speed, and, if need, be force, India has usually been tardy when it comes to its citizens abroad, particularly in the Gulf, where they face many problems of exploitation.
In this case, it would appear that external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj was very proactive, seeking the help of her counterparts in the Gulf states as well as that of international organisations working in the area.
The ISIS comprises technically non-State actors and it would have been hard for our government to begin negotiations with the militants directly.
Although this particular case has had a positive outcome, this should serve as a wake-up call to put in place mechanisms to deal with such eventualities.
The fate of many other Indians kidnapped in Iraq is still not known.
Given the spread of militancy in places like Iraq, and the general volatility across the globe, our citizens abroad face an ever greater threat.
We need to assemble a team of experts who can deal with such crises if they arise.
We need expert negotiators and also interlocutors on the ground. In earlier conflict situations like the one in Kuwait, the Indians working in the area were left to their own devices for a good long time before efforts were made to rescue them.
The same happened in Libya. It would seem that given the march of the ISIS, our citizens should have been evacuated much before. Our embassies in the area, indeed in any area where our citizens face a threat, should be much more active than they have been so far.
Many Indians complain that our missions abroad are most unhelpful when they approach them. The new government’s outreach to other countries hopefully will change that.
Given that military responses are not feasible when it comes to rescuing our people, we need to finesse our diplomacy and negotiating tactics to deal with such eventualities as the one in Iraq.
We also need a much greater assessment of the situation on the ground in various places in order to pre-empt such exigencies. This has been a trial by fire for the new government and it has come up trumps. This should set the benchmark for the future.