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Modi-Abbas meet raises hope for captives’ kin

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External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the leaders discussed the issue of Indians being held hostage in Iraq.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas in New York before leaving for India on Tuesday.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the leaders discussed the issue of Indians being held hostage in Iraq. The meeting has raised the hopes of family members of the 39 Indians kidnapped by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.

The government had kept the family members informed of the Modi-Abbas meeting as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj herself briefed a delegation of the relatives on September 18 before the Prime Minister left for New York.

Ms. Swaraj had told the families that the Palestinian Authority provided her irrefutable proof that the hostages had not been physically harmed by the IS.

“Ms. Swaraj told us that the Indians are being held by the IS in the northern part of the city of Mosul and the IS is using them to move heavy loads across the city,” said Gurpinder Kaur, whose 24-year-old brother, Harjinder Singh, is among the captives.

Silence for long
Mr. Harjinder spoke to his family like others in his group on June 15, 2014, informing them of the kidnapping. Neither he nor others have contacted their families since. One of the kidnapped men, Harkit Singh, emerged last December to claim that the rest of the 39 were massacred by the terrorists in Iraq a few days after the ordeal began.

Ms. Kaur and other family members have formed a group which has been kept informed of the progress of the investigation by the Ministry.

She said Ms. Swaraj had promised them that Mr. Abbas would provide some proof of life to Mr. Modi. “We are therefore waiting to hear what the Palestinian President told the Indian Prime Minister.”

A high-level official in the Ministry told The Hindu that the meeting had not thrown up anything substantial. Reportedly, Mr. Modi reiterated India’s request for help from the Palestinians to bring the men back home. “We have asked them for help in locating the captives as we have asked Qatar, the UAE, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and a host of other countries.”

“The President said the hostages were alive and will update us as and when there is more information,” Mr. Swarup said.

The meeting between Mr. Modi and Mr. Abbas comes in the wake of India’s increasing proximity to Israel and ahead of President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Israel next month.In an apparent effort to underscore India’s historical association with Palestine, Mr. Swarup tweeted pictures of the two leaders together, with the caption, ‘bonding with Palestine.’

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