New Delhi, July 25: The Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Eshaiker al-Jaafari on Monday reaffirmed that his government had no information concerning 39 Indian nationals missing in the country. Iraqi Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari while talking to reporters said they do not have any substantial evidence about the fate of 39 Indians who are missing in Mosul since 2014.
Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said, “We have no substantial evidence to say if they [the Indians] were killed or if they are still alive.” “We are equally concerned,” he said, “We are making the best efforts.” Jaafari also stressed that Iraq is as concerned about the safety of the Indians, missing for the last three years, as the Indian authorities and family members are.
Earlier, External Affairs Ministry confirmed that 39 Indians, mostly from Punjab, had been held hostage by the fighters aligned to the ISIS in Mosul since 2014 and are alive. Notably, Iraqi Foreign Minister Al-Jaafari began his five-day visit to India on Monday with a meeting with Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, who also discussed the fate of the 39 Indians, mostly labourers from Punjab. No details of the talks between al-Jaafari and Swaraj were available.
The visit is expected to add further impetus to the mutually beneficial bilateral engagement between India and Iraq. Both countries have historically enjoyed close and friendly political, economic and cultural ties. Bilateral trade amounted to nearly 13 billion dollars in 2016-17. Iraq contributes significantly to India's energy security and is the second-largest supplier of crude oil to it. Thousands of Indians visit Iraq annually for pilgrimage to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.