India on Wednesday secured the release of two Indian traders tortured and taken captive by locals in a trading hub in China. The two were escorted safely to the consulate in Shanghai, external affairs minister SM Krishna said after talks with the Chinese envoy in New Delhi.
Krishna met Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yan in New Delhi on Wednesday afternoon and was assured that Beijing was paying "serious attention" to the safety of Indian traders, Deepak Raheja and Shyam Sunder Agarwal.
Following the meeting, Krishna said the incident should not be blown out of proportion.
The two Indians were trapped in a hotel in Yiwu city, a trading hub near Shanghai, after some locals alleged that the firm they worked with and whose owner is absconding owed them millions of dollars.
Zhang met Krishna at his residence in New Delhi and assured the minister that the safety of Indians in China was a "priority".
"The traders have been released and they are on their way to Shanghai under consular officers security. Raheja and Agarwal are out of Yiwu. Let's not blow this incident out of proportion," Krishna told reporters after the meeting.
The minister said the two countries agreed that the safety of the two Indians "involved in a civil litigation in Yiwu is of utmost importance".
Asked about the return of the traders to India, Krishna said: “Our consular officers have met them. They will perhaps work out the details, but let us not forget that there is a civil litigation against them and we will have to take that into consideration."
Ambassador Zhang said the Chinese authorities were "working hard to resolve the issue".
"I think it will be settled according to legal procedure and according to the rule of law," the envoy told reporters.
In telephonic interviews to Indian TV channels earlier when they were held captive in a hotel, the Indian traders alleged that their lives were at risk because an angry crowd was waiting for them.
Pleading for help from the Indian government, the Indian traders also alleged in TV interviews that they were beaten up and tortured by some people.
Chinese officials in Beijing have said they would initiate criminal proceedings against five locals who held the traders hostage.
In a press statement, spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry Hong Lei said the Chinese judicial authority was "dealing with this case according to law".
"This is an individual case triggered by economic disputes. China hopes India can treat this case with objectivity and fairness, and actively educate Indian merchants in China to behave according to the Chinese law, behave honestly and operate legitimately," Hong said.
In Delhi, Zhang also met joint secretary (East Asia) Gautam Bambawale.
Indian diplomat S Balachandran, a diabetic, posted in China was allegedly ill-treated when he accompanied the two in a court proceedings Dec 31. This triggered a strong protest from New Delhi.
The court did not allow Balachandran to have food or medicine and prevented him from leaving the courtroom despite repeated requests that he suspected rapid fluctuation in his blood sugar levels.
The 46-year-old diplomat had to be admitted to hospital after his condition deteriorated.
The Chinese authorities have denied Balachandran was ill-treated.
Asked about this, Krishna said: "Balachandran is not in the picture now. He is relaxing in Shanghai. Our concern now is the safety of these two Indians."