Capture in Detail

Anatomy of an Abduction:
How the Indian Hostages in Iraq Were Freed
V. Sudarshan,
Penguin, Rs 295

The tragic, US-led war in Iraq that was launched on March 18, 2003, will soon be five years old and with no resolution in sight, the mayhem continues. It is a cynical reflection of our times that the unending turbulence and bloodshed in what was once the cradle of the Mesopotamian civilisation have been more or less erased from the public consciousness — unless there is even greater violence and killing than what is accepted as the norm.

India was also an affected party in the early stages of the Iraq war and this was a major domestic and foreign policy crisis for the newly sworn-in, Congress-led UPA government. In mid-2004, three Indian truck drivers working for KGL (Kuwait Gulf Link Transport Company) and four other drivers — three Kenyans and one Egyptian — were abducted while transporting goods from Kuwait City to Fallujah. The incident occurred on July 21, 2004, and soon snowballed into a breathless breaking story on Indian television channels. The Kandahar crisis of December 1999 had set a precedent for intrusive and incessant television coverage of such incidents and the abduction crisis in India, with the distraught families in India giving vent to their anguish was tailor-made for the medium.

The book under review is a detailed account of this abduction and the manner in which the mandarins of the Indian Foreign Ministry rose to the occasion. In 14 action-packed chapters, the author recreates the sequence of events from the moment Brij Bhushan Tyagi, the Indian ambassador to Iraq, received information about the abduction — while on leave in Delhi — till 4 p.m. on September 1, when the drama ended on a happy note with the released drivers being escorted out of Baghdad.

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