As ‘confidence-building measures’ between India and Pakistan go, this perhaps, is the high point.
The families of six Indian sailors of the MV Suez, released over the weekend by Somali pirates after over 10 months’ captivity, are overflowing with gratitude towards Pakistan and its former human rights minister Ansar Burney.
The release materialised after the Ansar Burney Trust paid a ransom of $2.1 million (R9.4 crore approximately).
The Egyptian cargo ship, hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on August 2, 2010, had 22 crew members. The other hostages included four Pakistanis, one Sri Lankan and 11 Egyptians.
Among the Indians were two men from Haryana and one each from Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, J&K and Maharashtra. The families had met many senior politicians to secure their release, but in vain.
In Jammu’s Samba district, Madhu Sharma, the wife of NK Sharma, 39, the ship’s third engineer, was all praise for Pakistan and Burney’s efforts. “In New Delhi, Burney assured us that he would do everything possible. But the Centre didn't offer any support or spend any money.”
“We’re thankful to Burney and the Pakistan government,” said Sampa Arya, wife of Ravinder Gulia (30), a resident of Haryana's Rohtak town.
The news also brought joy in Ambala, at the Sham Nagar home of Shamsher Singh and Surinder Kaur. Singh has already left for Delhi to receive their son, Satnam, 21, who was the ship’s painter.
The trauma, however, still continues for a few. For the Chauhan family of Shimla, the nightmare won’t be over until their son Prashant, 22, a chef in the ship, reaches home.
“The ship is still not provided with any security and could be hijacked again,” said his father Amar Singh Chauhan. “We don’t even know if it has enough fuel to sail,” he said, citing the case of MV Africana, which, after being released by pirates in March, sank due its poor condition in Somali waters.
The family is also unhappy with the Centre's lack of initiative.