Expatriates in the line of fire

The killing of two Indian security guards by a Taliban suicide bomber during a recent attack on the Kabul airport, coupled with the successful evacuation from the line of fire of 40 nurses from Kerala, who were employed at a hospital in Tikrit in Iraq, highlights the growing entrapment of Indians in war zones abroad. Anxiety continues to mount regarding the fate of 39 young men from Punjab who were taken captive near Mosul, following clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadis and Iraqi security forces. In both cases Indians have become inadvertent victims of major geopolitical conflicts that are being fought under the cover of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) coupled with the doctrine of “regime change”.

In the case of Afghanistan, the guards, both from Kerala, were employed by the private security firm DynCorp International, highlighting how Indians had been channelled into the controversial policy adopted by the United States to outsource military duties to “security contractors,” not all of whom are above board.

The security firm Blackwater Security Consulting, now called Constellis Holdings, was caught in a firestorm after its employees shot and killed 17 civilians in Iraq. The situation may only turn grimmer, as the U.S. speeds up its troops withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The killings in Kabul of Ponnappan V. Kuttappan and Parambat Ravindran, also puts the spotlight on the underlying causes that push Indians into conflict zones. Horrific tales of innocent workers being duped by a nexus of unscrupulous agents and traffickers into high-risk combat areas are common. Yet, many migrate with foreknowledge of the dangers that might lie ahead. Relatively high salaries continue to be an attraction for people from the developing world, for a security guard in a U.S.-based security firm in Afghanistan can earn a monthly income equal to Rs. 1 lakh, far more than salaries that obtain at home.

In Tikrit, most of the nurses seemed unwilling to return, till such time that the dangers to their lives became overwhelming. Despite the odds, the government is obliged to prevent the migration at least of those who are unknowingly transported into war zones, where they are virtually held in bondage because the fighting surrounding them restricts their movement. Indian embassies and consulates, in cooperation with the immigration authorities of host countries, must build a data bank on the entry and exit of Indian nationals, while also maintaining an early-warning oversight on the type of contracts that these individuals may enter into. In the long run, only sound employment and better working conditions at home can stem the flow of Indians into hazardous zones of conflict in faraway lands.

Mashriq Group of Newspapers

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