Govt for restraint on sailors release from pirates

New Delhi: With pressure mounting for release of Indian sailors held hostages by Somalian pirates, the government on Thursday said it has to exercise restraint because any emotive response could put the captives` lives at risk.

Assuring members in the Rajya Sabha that the government would "do everything possible" within time to get the sailors released, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said, "There is no use getting worked up or getting excited or getting emotive."

Responding to BJP member S S Ahluwalia`s query whether India would send its forces to get the hostages released, Krishna cautioned saying, when the Americans tried to carry out an assault on some pirates, four of the hostages were killed.

"So, let us be very objective in our assessment of the situation. We cannot afford to let the lives of Indian sailors, who are held hostage by the pirates, to be jeopardy.

So, we will have to be restrained," he said.

Krishna said at the same time, India will have to pursue vigorously its efforts through the back channels and ship owners. "That is the only way we can operate," he said adding there cannot be any time limit fixed for this objective.

Indian sailors and crew members are on board two of six hijacked ships – m.v. Suez and Rak Afrikana in the Somalian Coast and Indian ocean. According to Ahluwalia there are over 100 hostages from India along with Pakistanis, Egyptians and people from Ghana.

Krishna said 11 of the Indian hostages of Rak Afrikana have been released and they are on their way back home. He agreed with senior BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu that payment of ransom could be one of the "components" of the negotiations for their release.

But Ahluwalia said Spanish authorities got the captives freed and not the Indian government. He said India has its Navy, Coast Guard and "we call ourselves an emerging" power.

Noting that continued captivity of the remaining people was "disturbing and serious", Krishna said the ship owners of m.v. Suez were engaged in negotiations with pirates.

When asked by Ahluwlia and others whether the government was in touch with the Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS), set up by the UN Security Council, Krishna said, "I will have to get information on this particular aspect."

Besides BJP, members from the Left and RJD said the government has not done enough for the release of sailors whose families are suffering.

Family members of the hostages have also met Krishna who assured them that the government would do "everything possible" to get others also released.