Addressing a parliamentary committee, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has defended her statements in Parliament on the 39 Indian workers killed by the Islamic State fighters in Iraq. The Consultative Committee on External Affairs, which met on Thursday, drew probing comments from MPs who asked the government to assert its presence in the West Asian and Gulf region.
“The Minister read out a very detailed answer to defend her statements on the 39 Indians. Ms. Swaraj said that she never indicated in the past four years since the men were taken hostage, that they were alive but emphasised that she was not in favour of calling them dead without evidence,” said a member who attended the meeting which lasted nearly three hours.
Questions were asked about India’s ties with countries in the Gulf, where Pakistan is seen to be increasing its influence. “We raised the issue of growing Pakistani presence within the bureaucracy and the police structure of Bahrain and the UAE, and asked the government to come up with a solid plan to counter such moves by Pakistan,” a member said.
The MP’s comments came against the backdrop of the growing presence of Pakistani security experts in countries such as Bahrain and the UAE, where consultants and military experts from Islamabad are known to have found acceptance.
“We also raised the issue of the tiny number of Indian diplomats who serve full time on behalf of India,” said the member. India’s diplomatic community, he said, is small considering its growing profile in the international sphere. Therefore, the government should try to increase the number of diplomats.
While Prime Minister Modi has repeatedly visited the Arab world in the past four years, sufficient attention is yet to be given to match Pakistani influence in the Arab countries, members maintained.