Krishna assures all possible efforts to secure their release

Unsatisfied over the response of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna over the plight of 79 Indian sailors held hostage by Somali pirates, the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha.

Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj raised the issue during Zero Hour, saying the deadline for the execution of eight of the 79 Indian sailors was scheduled to expire on Wednesday.

“When even one U.S. national is kidnapped, the U.S. moves heaven and earth to secure his release. But the Indian government is not taking seriously the issue of Indian sailors being taken hostage by Somali pirates. A tiny nation like Somalia also does not take a superpower like India seriously,” she said.

Mr. Krishna assured the House that the government was doing everything possible for the release of Indian sailors from the captivity of Somali pirates. “Their safe and early release is our highest priority. We are doing all that we can. We are in touch with the ship owners. We are depending upon ship owners, as is done in most cases, to negotiate with the pirates,” he said.

Mr. Krishna said there was a transitional government in Somalia and added that the issue of pirates was a “complicated problem.” However, he said the government has taken up the issue with the President of that government who has assured all help.

The Minister said that some of the family members of the abducted sailors have also met him and he has assured them of all possible help from the government.

Quoting information from the Directorate-General of Shipping, he said that as many as 215 Indian crew were among those whose ships were captured by pirates and 136 of them have been released. “At present, there are 79 Indian crew on seven ships that are in the custody of Somali pirates,” he said.

The Minister said that he has held talks with the Egyptian Ambassador here, who has promised all assistance for safe and quick release of the hostages. The Indian envoys in Egypt and Dubai were also making efforts in this regard.

The Somali pirates had hijacked an Egyptian cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden in August last year. Besides the six Indians, the ship's crew includes four Pakistanis, four Sri Lankans and 11 Egyptians.

Earlier, the Leader of the Opposition entered into an argument with Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal as she wanted the External Affairs Minister to respond to her concern immediately.

Mr. Bansal’s assurance that he would inform Mr. Krishna failed to cut ice with Ms. Swaraj.

However, Mr. Krishna soon returned to the House and made a short statement. All this while, UPA chairperson and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was present in the Lok Sabha.

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