New Delhi in direct contact with Tehran for release of sailors

Atul Aneja

DUBAI: India is moving cautiously to secure the release of 17 Indians detained by the Iranian coast guard after it found them in its territorial waters. They were aboard four vessels registered in Saudi Arabia.

Diplomatic sources said that given the sensitivity of the issue, New Delhi was dealing directly with the authorities in Tehran.

Apart from Iran, Saudi Arabia and the owners of the boats were also involved in the talks. The role of the Indian embassy in Tehran at this stage was minimal.

The boats had strayed into Iranian waters, apparently for the purpose of fishing. They were seized behind the Bushehr port at a distance of around 50 km. The coast guard which operates under the Iranian police, made the arrests.

The sources said the coast guard monitors this area tightly because of the existence of the Bushehr nuclear facility, which falls in the general direction of the area where the arrests were made. The vigil in this zone has been tightened following growing tensions between Washington and Tehran over the latter’s atomic programme.

The detainees face charges of border violation and illegal fishing. “We are trying very hard to get them released as soon as possible. This issue is a bit complicated,” Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon had told reporters on Friday.

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