India must establish a negotiating channel with Sunni Ba’athists who have links in the ultra-violent group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) to secure the release of 40 of its nationals abducted near the seized town of Mosul, experts have said.
The Indian establishment could tap its contacts with former loyalists to Saddam Hussein who are now said to be working closely with the Sunni Islamist group ISIS, united by their perception that the Shia-dominated government is oppressing Sunnis.
India’s military training teams have honed the fighting skills of thousands of Iraqi soldiers during Saddam’s regime.
Lina Khatib, director, Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, told HT, “India should capitalise its old links with the Ba’athists, who are in strategic cooperation with ISIS to broker the release of the hostages.”
She said nothing was guaranteed but New Delhi should explore the potential channel to defuse the crisis and ensure safe return of its citizens. The ISIS has supported the appointment of former Saddam officials to political office.
“The Sunni Baathists do not believe in the ISIS ideology. The common goal is to get rid PM Nouri al-Maliki who has excluded the Sunnis,” Khat-ib said.
The Baathists from Saddam’s era do not back the hardline Islamist ideology espoused by the ISIS.
“India must engage both the Shiite government and the Sunni forces in Iraq to protect its interests. Baathist officials from Saddam’s era who have allied themselves with ISIS could be of help,” said a government officer who has served in Iraq.
In a related development, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq has evacuated some of its officials from Baghdad to Kuwait. These officials include a few Indian nationals.