India on Wednesday said it was making the best efforts to secure the safe release of its sailors held hostage by Somali pirates as only a week remains for expiry of the deadline set by the sea brigands to meet their demands.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna met some of the family members of Indian sailors who were on board an Egyptian cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, and assured them of all possible help from the Ministry while noting that the Shipping Ministry was the nodal authority in such cases.

The Minister said the safety and welfare of Indians was the highest priority of the government.

However, he said “it is not for the Minister of External Affairs to negotiate. We can only facilitate to identify the owner of the ship.”

Arya Sampa, wife of captured sailor Ravinder Gulia, after meeting Mr. Krishna, said the Minister “has assured of all help“.

“S.M. Krishna has assured us that the government is making its best efforts. He has also asked us to meet the Shipping Minister,” she said.

The Somali pirates had hijacked the vessel MV Suez in the Gulf of Aden on August 2, 2010. The ship’s crew includes four Pakistanis, six Indians, four Sri Lankans and 11 Egyptians.

The pirates have reportedly demanded $4 million for the release of the six Indians.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said “owner of MV Suez, owned by an Egyptian company, had promised to take action to free hostages but nothing was done. The DG Shipping continues his efforts.”

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