Manmohan’s intervention after the troops opened fire on Indians bears fruit in Central African Republic

After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, then in Durban for the BRICS summit, asked his foreign policy managers to ensure the security of 100 Indians working in the war-torn Central African Republic (CAR), Indian diplomats on Thursday arranged for a complement of 30 French troops to guard their factory premises.

French troops arrived at the cement plant on the outskirts of the CAR capital of Bangui after the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) pulled strings, said Jaguar Overseas CEO K.S. Aswathanarayana, whose company runs the factory.

Injured hospitalised

Ironically, colleagues of French troops safeguarding Indian lives and property at the Bangui cement plant shot dead an Indian and a Nepali citizen (earlier reports erroneously said two Indians were killed) on Monday during what they claimed was a “particularly confusing situation.”

Six other Indians injured in the incident were admitted to a French military hospital in neighbouring Chad.

It was this shooting that prompted Dr. Singh to ask National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Secretary (West) in the MEA Sudhir Vyas to ensure the safety of the Indians living near Bangui that saw heavy fighting while Seleka rebels overthrew CAR President Francois Bozize.

France immediately got into damage control mode given the long list of pending business with India. President Francois Hollande called up Dr. Singh in Durban and expressed regret over the loss of lives (till then both the killed Asians were believed to be Indians) while Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drain did the same with his counterpart A.K. Antony.

Meanwhile, the bodies of Krishnayya Mogaveera (Indian) and Karna Bahadur (Nepali) have been brought to Gabon with the French providing a military aircraft for the purpose.

An Indian diplomat from Kinshasa has reached Gabon to facilitate completion of procedures for sending their bodies to Bangalore and Chandigarh, respectively. The six injured Indian nationals, who were flown to Chad, are reported to be stable.

“The MEA has been extremely helpful to us. It is only through their efforts that we got security at the cement plant,” said Mr. Aswathanarayana. His company runs the plant, where the 100 Indians are working. The two who were killed were with a pharmaceutical company.

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