No ransom paid to free Fr Tom: VK Singh
The minister of state for external affairs said it was a diplomatic victory and all concerned worked quietly to ensure his safe release.india Updated: Sep 13, 2017 14:31 IST
Minister of state for external affairs VK Singh on Wednesday dismissed reports that a huge ransom was paid to ensure the release of Father Tom Uzunnanil from the clutches of militants in Yemen.
The minister said it was a diplomatic victory and all concerned worked quietly to ensure his safe release.
There were reports that India had paid USD 1 crore through back channels to free Fr Tom who was abducted by Islamic State militants in Yemen on March 4, 2016, and released on Tuesday and taken to Vatican.
Dismissing the report, the minister said it was not the policy of a country like India.
Addressing newsmen in the state capital, Singh said the MEA was tracking the case vigorously for more than a year and closely co-ordinating with many countries, including Oman in this regard.
“We all worked quietly. Finally it paid off. It is a big diplomatic victory for the country,” he said.
However, he refused to elaborate how the government got the priest released, saying details can’t be divulged to the media.
Asked when the priest will be returning to India, he said it was up to him to decide when to return.
A spokesman of the Celestian congregation later clarified that the priest had reached Vatican and will be meeting Pope Francis in a couple of days.
Talking about the MEA’s decision to deny permission to the Kerala tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran to visit China, Singh said it was due to some protocol issues.
“In China, he was planning to meet an official much below his rank. For the country, self-respect means a lot,” he said, expressing sadness over the issue being made “a big controversy”.
Last week, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticising the MEA decision.