External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday appealed to Islamist militants who have held 41 Indians captive for the last 45 days to release them as a special Ramzan gift to India.
Swaraj — who asked Lok Sabha to pass a resolution urging the captors to release them — reminded them about India’s historical ties with Iraq and how Parliament had refused to send Indian forces to Iraq over a decade ago.
“The holy period of Ramzan is on. The House should appeal to those who have kept these 41 Indians captive to release them before Eid as a special Ramzan gift,” she said, responding to a calling attention motion on the Indians stranded in Iraq due to the ongoing conflict.
Swaraj, however, did not press the suggestion and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan took up the next item on the agenda after she ended her reply.
Of the 41 held captive, 31 belong to Punjab, four each to Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and two to West Bengal, she said.
The minister said the government did not have any direct contact with those held captive but multiple sources had told New Delhi that its citizens were safe, alive and being given food.
Swaraj assured members that the government was making all efforts to get the abducted Indians released but turned down a suggestion that the government declare its action plan.
The minister said secrecy was the fundamental principle of dealing with such situations, stressing that their safety was the government’s foremost concern.
“Did you get to know our plan when we got the 46 nurses from Kerala released?” she asked, adding the government was leaving no stone unturned.
As for the other Indians stranded in Iraq, she said over 4,000 Indian nationals had already come back home.
Of a total of around 22,000 Indians present in Iraq, around 15,000 were in the safe region of Kurdistan which was “a matter of relief,” she said.