India's evacuation efforts in Libya gathered pace and the government felt confident of its resources to reach out to far-flung areas as well as ask if nationals from other countries needed relocation.

Responding to help from Indians stranded in smaller towns, the government was dispatching ships and seeking docking permission.

Three flights have started operating from Tuesday and will continue till needed.

Over 1,200 Indians took the sea route to Greece and Egypt while several others crossed over to Egypt and Tunisia, where they were housed or taken to board planes headed for India.

“India has sought permission for a ship to evacuate our people from Brega after a dramatic on-line appeal for help: People are desperate for help there…is there any evacuation plan for the people stuck in Brega? Could you arrange for a boat to the port there? It is also sending a ship to Misurata following a similar appeal. Are there any other country nationals also waiting to be evacuated out of there?” Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao counter-posed to a tweeter when asked if India would be prepared to bring back nationals of “friendly” neighbours. There could be spare capacity on Indian naval ships as most Indians would have been relocated by the time they dock a week later.

An Indian Air Force IL-76 transport aircraft is scheduled to leave New Delhi on Thursday morning to Cairo enroute Libya. It will join evacuation efforts mounted by India to ensure safe return of its citizens stranded there.

IAF spokesperson Wg. Cdr. Tarun Kumar Singha said here that the aircraft would transport the passengers from an undisclosed location in Libya to Cairo, from where further arrangements would be made by the Ministry of External Affairs.

The exact location, where the plane would land in Libya was not being stated for security reasons, the spokesperson said adding that it was readying another IL-76 for the task.

Hostage crisis

Meanwhile, the government is making efforts to convince the Egyptian ship owners of M.V. Suez to get its sailors, held hostage by Somali pirates, released at the earliest.

Six Indians are among the 22 sailors held hostage by the pirates for the past six months but the issue came into prominence after reports of a week long deadline having been set.

Union Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan will meet the families of the six Indians on Thursday to assure them of the government's efforts in this regard.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna met them on Wednesday.

No talks

Like most nations, India will not negotiate with the pirates. Other governments and human rights activists from other countries whose nationals are held with the Indians are also reported to be making efforts.

“They — other countries with their nationals held hostage — have a similar dilemma. At the cost of repeating myself — the shipping companies negotiate with pirates — we do not. Ask any country whose nationals are held,” said Ms. Rao.