Diplomatic efforts and initiatives on the ground pay off

The Indian government’s efforts to rescue its nationals from war-torn Iraq met with success when the 46 nurses, who had been under captivity in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit, were freed on Friday.

“I can confirm to you that those Indian nurses who were yesterday moved against their will are now free. They are in touch with our embassy officials. We had envisaged this earlier and, therefore, had sent our officials from Baghdad to Erbil,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said here on Friday.

The nurses, who had earlier been moved from the hospital in Tikrit, were dropped off by their captors at Duhok, north of Mosul, in the afternoon.

A source among Kurdish Peshmergas said 46 Indians, along with 31 Bangladeshis, arrived at a checkpoint under the control of the Peshmergas at Duhok. The Peshmerga rented four mini buses to move them to safer areas in Kurdistan, from where they planned to take them to Erbil later at night, sources said.

Several factors, both diplomatic and at the ground level, converged successfully to secure the release of the nurses, the sources said.

On Thursday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj spoke to all her counterparts in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman — energising diplomatic channels in the region at the highest level.

The initiative capped parallel efforts by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh to engage officials capable of influencing the situation.

New Delhi also tapped Turkish officials, who had last year managed to secure the release two of their pilots and nine Lebanese nationals from the clutches of a rebel group in Lebanon. Syrian authorities were also drawn in to share their experiences in the multilevel diplomatic exercise, the sources said.

(With additional reporting by Praveen Swami)

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