NEW DELHI, June 19 -- India on Thursday said that it would leave no stone unturned to secure the release of 40 Indians kidnapped in violence-hit Iraq even as uncertainty loomed large on the fate of the victims.
"We are doing all that a government should do. I am personally supervising the efforts. I will leave no stone unturned in keeping our countrymen safe. I want to assure the families that the government and we will try our very best... make every effort," Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told the media in the national capital.
Indian Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu spoke on similar lines. "First of all, the priority is to get them back, to get them released. The government is working 24x7. Our effort is to see that they are released at the earliest. We are using all our channels to get them released," he said.
The reassuring statements from the government came a day after it officially confirmed that the 40 Indians, all construction workers mostly hailing from the northern state of Punjab, were kidnapped in the Iraqi city of Mosul which fell to al-Qaeda- inspired Sunni insurgent group ISIS on June 10.
"Some 40 Indian workers of the Tariq Noor Al Huda company in Mosul have been kidnapped. We have not received any calls of any nature asking for ransom, and it is not known where they are being held," Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin has said.
As local TV channels telecast interviews of families of the kidnapped Indians, who have urged the government to use all possible means to get them released, experts say the abductions have given Prime Minister Narendra Modi his "first foreign policy crisis".
"It's a litmus test for Modi who has been stressing upon foreign policy the day he took office. He will have to find a quick solution to defuse his first foreign policy crisis. Otherwise, it will give his critics a chance to slam his government on the issue," said Delhi-based expert Prof Ajay Singh.
Even the media echoed the similar sentiments.
"The newly elected government at the centre is facing its first major challenge. Like the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, which caused problems for the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government led by A.B. Vajpayee, Iraq is once again causing a big headache to Prime Minister Modi," the CNN-IBN news website said.
The headline of another leading English daily, the Hindustan Times, read: "Trial by Iraq fire: Modi govt faces first foreign policy test." The newspaper said the abduction of the Indian construction workers has presented "the barely month-old government its biggest foreign policy test".
India on Sunday issued a travel advisory, asking its nationals to avoid traveling to Iraq.