No concrete evidence has emerged to conclude that the 39 Indians abducted from Mosul in Iraq three years back have been killed, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said today and asserted that she “will not commit the sin” of declaring them dead without any proof.
In a forceful statement in the Lok Sabha, Swaraj rejected allegations that she misled the country on the issue and said the government will continue its efforts to trace them until getting evidence of their death.
“We will continue our efforts to trace them till the time we get evidence that they are dead, as declaring dead them without proof will be a sin and I will not commit that sin,” Swaraj said.
“This file will not close till there is proof that the 39 Indians are dead,” she said, adding Vietnam still looks for soldiers who went missing or believed to be killed in the Vietnam war. Even the US still looks for soldiers who went missing in World War II.
Her strong assertion on the issue came two days after Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said here that there is no “substantial evidence” on whether the Indians are alive or dead and confirmed that the prison at Badush, their last known location, has been demolished by terror group ISIS.
However, the Congress appeared to be not satisfied with her statement as its leader Mallikarjun Kharge said, “we will give a notice to discuss foreign affairs and then we will see what you (Swaraj) had said in 2014.”
Kharge stated this after Speaker Sumitra Mahajan disallowed any questions on Swaraj’s statement.
Earlier, the external affairs minister, referring to a statement she made in Lok Sabha in November 2014, said whatever she did in the case was with consent of the House.
Swaraj on July 16, based on information gathered by her junior minister VK Singh during his recent visit to Iraq, had stated that Badush jail in northwest Mosul was the last known location of the Indians.
In her statement on Wednesday, she said she never said that the Indians were in the jail and that as per information, they were taken to Badush in early 2016.
“The Iraqi foreign minister said ‘we do not have concrete information whether they are alive or not. He never said they are dead. He told me that in Iraq it is said that wait is worse than death,” Swaraj said.
India had requested Iraq to locate the 39 missing Indians, mostly from Punjab, after Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul from ISIS.
Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh was also sent to Iraq days after the Iraqi prime minister announced victory in the fight to recapture Mosul from ISIS.