Indians trapped in Iraq may not be in danger, say analysts

Indians caught in the battle zones of Iraq include another 12 nurses in the Diyala province, an area north east of Baghdad, whose capital Baqouba is currently the epicenter of the fighting.

A dozen more are in Iraq’s Sunni heartland that includes the Anbar province, which is also in striking distance of the capital. Besides, a dozen Indians are trapped in Samarra. Eight Indians, working for the LANCO Company in Baiji, have also been trapped after militants overran a refinery in the vicinity.

Analysts say that the trapped Indians may not be in danger, because their captors, unlike hardcore Islamists, appear to be mostly Sunni tribesmen, who are only in a tactical alliance with the more virulent ISIS.

“Many of the tribesmen are with the ISIS because they want to tilt the balance of power against President Nourish Al Maliki,” says Ziqrur Rehman, a former negotiator who was centrally involved in the release of Indian truck drivers who had been captured on the outskirts of Baghdad in 2004.

Informed sources said that Indians may have been caught in an intense power struggle between the Maliki government and a large section of the Sunnis who have been apparently marginalised, following the fall of Saddam Hussein, in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“It is plausible that some of the Saddam-era generals are also in the thick of battle that is engulfing large parts of Iraq.”

Observers point out that an anticipated 20,000 Indians reside in Iraq, of which the bulk are in the much safer and oil rich south, and in northern Iraq, where the Kurdish community, battling the militants, is in majority.

The fall of Baghdad was not imminent, because government forces are mounting a credible riposte in several flashpoint areas. Any attack by the militants in southern Iraq could be a “game changer” as this was likely to rock oil markets and cause a spurt in global energy prices.