The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Natwar salve on hostage father

New Delhi, July 24: His son in the clutches of guerrillas somewhere in Iraq, Ram Murti Bains sat quietly in a corner of Natwar Singh’s office and waited. Outside, scores of scribes and television crew jostled, not willing to miss a rare photo-op.

Working lunch with Myanmar counterpart finally over, in strode foreign minister Singh. Quick to seize the moment, he pulled up a chair, positioned it in the middle of the courtyard and clambered on top of it.

“We are as concerned as you are, they are our sons, too, and we are doing everything possible to free them,” he boomed at the man in the green turban as the TV cameras zoomed in, on minister, chair and all.

“Every hour, we are monitoring the situation and talking to the relevant people in Iran, Kuwait and Cairo. Hopefully, our efforts will be successful.”

Flash, whirr, click went the cameras as Singh reassured Bains, who had come all the way from Himachal to plead with the government to rescue his son Antaryami and truckdriver colleagues Tilak Raj and Sukhdev Singh, now hostage with the Holders of the Black Banner.

“As far as we know, they (the captors) are not politically affiliated. They appear to be doing it for money,” Singh said. “Though we have covered much ground… the matter is sensitive and you can understand why we don’t want to go public.”

But the VHP, which appeared to have taken over Bains’ cause, wouldn’t sit quiet. Delhi unit president On Prakash Singhal and general secretary Rajinder Khera, who accompanied him, insisted the minister should realise what the hostages’ families were going through.

Ask the Prime Minister to grant Bains an appointment, Singhal urged, the PMO having turned down Bains’ first plea.

Catching Singhal’s signal, Singh played to the cameras again. Calling out to ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna, Singh told him he should immediately get in touch with the PMO. Singhal looked pleased as punch, having already set up Bains date with the President.

In the evening, not only did Bains get to speak to Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, too, made time for him. “The President assured us that efforts are on to being back the hostages,” Bains said.

Late tonight, the government appealed to the abductors through TV networks in Iraq, Kuwait, Oman and other Gulf countries to let off the hostages.

In a statement, the Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Company employing the trio said: “The company reaffirms that it is ready to take any measure to ensure the release of the hostages and it is negotiating with the kidnappers...”

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