Diplomacy and ISIS Captives

It is a challenge for Indian diplomacy to make all countries and individuals who have the potential to help, to give their contributions and help in release of Indians held hostage by IS. Who all can actually help free the captive Indians. Here is a look at various countries and their diplomatic efforts.

  • The country is highly notable in the context and can be a source of many tips and vital information generated from everyday developments in the area. The country has a sizeable portion of refugees of different ethnical backgrounds like Iraqi Sunnis, ex-Baathists, Kurds and Shias. All these people have prospects of having contacts in various different ideological spectra of the region. They can provide some highly useful insights and put forward India’s stand to the captors for release of the workers. The people may not have any primary level contact with the captors but may know indirect links with people who have opening to the captors.
  • Turkey had secured release of 90 Turkish nationals taken captive by ISIL in Mosul at about the same time Indian workers were captured.
  • It was a great display of patience and negotiations which made the success possible. The release surely has made Turkish officials a better understanding of ISIL working, its command line, decision-making process, negotiating requirements and the contacts required for intermediation.
  • Although, it does not share any ideology with ISIL, but it does share a common goal of unseating Assad from Syria. It is evident as Turkey played only a limited role to fight ISIL in Kobane along Syrian border and blocking of funds, supplies and fresh recruits across the territory. This was despite the fact that is now a part of US-led anti-ISIL group.
  • Also, Turkey hosts some of the top Iraqi Sunni leaders like the former Vice-President Tariq al Hashmi who has been charged with terrorist activities by the former regime and has been sentenced to death. In addition, it also has some Muslim Brotherhood leaders who have been banned by Egypt and also some Gulf governments. So in Turkey’s case it is the official information and insights which can be of help to India.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar
  • The country is said to have proxy contacts with ISIL positions in Syria as part of statecraft. Also, Saudis have also gone soft on India and are ready to work with India on counter-terror framework. Qatar is also said to have drawn links with Jabhat-al-Nusra, the Syrian arm of Al-Qaeda to secure release of some Lebanese hostages.
  • Iraq
  • The country is said to be the victim of increasing sectarian polarisation and will not have many useful inputs about Indian hostages. However, in its fight to free Mosul from ISIL, it might get some critical information about the hostages. The Iraqi Army while interrogation of some captured ISIL fighters might be able to extract some important leads or clues.
  • Iran and Syria
  • Although Iran is said to have contacts in southern and eastern Iraq, it might not have ample connections in western Iraq and eastern Syria where Indian workers are expectedly placed. Syria has expressed solidarity with India and expressed its willingness to help in release of workers but has little control over its eastern periphery where the workers are probably kept.

The release of hostages in ISIL controlled areas is seen to be a lengthy and painstaking process which often extends into months. ISIL is based on an extremist ideology which has no parallels in India. This makes negotiations with the group difficult. Indians have a wave of goodwill both in common and official circles as was apparent in the release of nurses from Tikrit. The case of Indian workers will not be a priority for anybody other than Indian government. Even they will not be a priority for ISIL as the latter is constantly fighting for its existence. Also, all the countries in the region will not openly or even confidentially declare any links with ISIL and will not be open to share any inputs diplomatically. It therefore remains on Indian diplomacy to cleverly weave the right story from all or any inputs they receive from official or non-official sources.

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