NEW DELHI: More than 600 Indians are expected to return this week from the non-conflict areas of Iraq, even as 94 Indians returned on Monday, following the activation of mobile camps by External Affairs Ministry officials in four Iraqi cities.
The status of the 40-odd Indian construction workers, taken captive in Mosul at the start of the fighting, remains unchanged - they remain unharmed, with the government working on “leads” for their release.
Giving the daily update, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said: “Departure of more than 600 Indian nationals will be facilitated during the course of this week.”
Over the weekend, the MEA had sent in additional staff from outside Iraq to set up mobile camp offices in Najaf, Karbala, Basra and Baghdad. The staff, which had contacted the Indian nationals at their residences to advise them that in accordance with the two advisories, it is best to return to India.
Meanwhile, in critical development in Iraq, following its military victories, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which began as an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, announced that a ‘caliphate’ had been achieved and remained itself as “Islamic State”.
ISIL chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was proclaimed the ‘Caliph’ and ‘leader of Muslims everywhere’.
“We are continuing with the paperwork, we are continuing to work on ticketing, and we are continuing to work with the employers to work out solutions for those who may have problems,” he said. On Monday, 60 Indian workers from Najaf, 30 from Karbala, and another four from Baghdad left for India on commercial flights.
Besides, another 60-odd, whose papers and tickets are being processed, will leave Najaf in next two days. In Karbala, 230 Indians are expected to leave over the next five-six days, out of which 30 already left on Monday.
The Baghdad team has issued tickets for 12 Indian nationals to leave Baghdad, out of which four left on Monday.
In the port town of Basra, the mobile team members met a judge and convinced him to release six Indians in judicial custody. “We would be doing their bookings and they will be leaving shortly,” he said. Nasiriya, near Basra, will also see the departure of 50 more Indians in the new few days.
“… in order to speed up the departure of Indian nationals, in case they have problems about paying for their tickets, the Government of India is paying for those tickets,” said the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson.
Meanwhile, the Iraq crisis was discussed in the talks between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
“We will do the best on that,” Fabius told reporters.
Terming the situation in Iraq as “very very worrying,” Fabius said the Iraqi government had not asked for intervention from the west.
“Our view is that the best way to fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is that the Iraqi government is united. And the best way is that they have the elements to fight by themselves,” he said.
Interestingly, he claimed that the ISIL, which spread from Syria, was “not fighting the Assad regime, but both were legitimising each other”. “We have proof where the ISIL got oil, they delivered it to the regime,” he said. The French Foreign Minister also praised India for being on the side of fighting against terrorism of all forms.