10 times Sushma Swaraj came to the rescue of stranded Indians and foreign nationals

By Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Indian Diaspora event, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39189861

Recently a man tweeted asking Sushma Swaraj to rescue him from a theatre in Pune, as he was fed up with watching Jab Harry Met Sejal. The tweet went viral with social media rooting for Swaraj to reply.

Jokes notwithstanding, the fact remains that the country’s External Affairs Minister has been extremely proactive in helping in distress, and has been equally proactive in responding to people on online social media platforms.

While Swaraj has helped a number of people – both Indians and foreigners – who have found themselves in adverse situations, we take a look at 10 such times:

Iraq evacuation: One of Sushma Swaraj’s first challenges after taking over as the Minister of External Affairs came in 2014 when 46 nurses were abducted by the ISIS in war-torn Iraq. The nurses, who were trapped in the hospital in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, where they were working in, as war broke out. They then got in touch with the Indian Ambassador in Baghdad, Ajay Kumar and the then Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

Shortly, the militants bombed the hospital they were staying in and took the nurses away in a bus. Throughout the entire ordeal, Sushma Swaraj and her team from the External Affairs Ministry did all they could to negotiate a release. The nurses were finally taken to Erbil International Airport, Iraq where they, along with 183 Indians who were trapped in the country, were safely evacuated to India.

Operation Raahat: The biggest highlight of Sushma Swaraj’s tenure has been the successful completion of Operation Raahat. In an exceptionally brave move, India conducted the evacuation of around 4,741 Indian nationals and 1,947 people of 48 other nationalities during the Yemeni civil war which took place in 2015. The youngest among the lot was a barely three days old baby who was flown back to Kochi in an incubator.

Rescuing Uzma:   In May 2017, Uzma Ahmed, a young Indian woman, was allegedly forced to marry her Pakistani lover whom she had met in Malaysia, at gun point in his village in Pakistan. There, Uzma maintained, she was harassed by her husband who took away her documents. Uzma managed to reach the Indian embassy in Islamabad, where the embassy officials contacted Sushma Swaraj. Swaraj ordered that her credentials as an Indian nationality be verified immediately. In the meantime, Indian embassy officials also approached the Islamabad High Court, before Tahir Ali, the Pakistani man Uzma had married, could file a case against her. Once it was ascertained that she was indeed an Indian national, and after the High Court allowed Uzma to return to India, she was escorted back via the Wagah border where she was received by Sushma Swaraj.

Rescuing Mohammadia Begum: In March, this year, Sushma Swaraj was approached by the father of Mohammadia Begum, a 44-year-old woman stranded in Pakistan, who was being harassed by her 60-year-old husband. Begum had married her husband, Muhammad Younis, who claimed to be an Omani national, in 1996. Sushma then directed the Indian High Commission to renew her Indian passport, and facilitated her return to India.

Ensuring safe release of Judith D’Souza:  The Indian aid worker Judith D’Souza who was abducted in Kabul in June 2016, by suspected militants was rescued after the Ministry of External Affairs kept following up with the Afghani government for her safe release.  She returned home safely, and she went to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sushma Swaraj soon after her arrival.

Speedy visa for Basma Mohammad Faisal: At a time when relations between the two countries were prickly, Sushma Swaraj came to the rescue of 5-year-old Basma Mohammad Faisal from Pakistan, in October 2015. The little girl suffered from chronic liver disease and needed a liver transplant urgently, a facility which was not available in Oman where she lived, or Pakistan. After the parents decided to get the operation done in Chennai, Swaraj ensured that a visa was issued on a speedy basis, so that the child could travel to India for the transplant.

Finding Sabine Hermes:  After attempts from her family to contact Dutch national Sabine Hermes, who had been on a spiritual journey to Uttaranchal, failed, her sister Sussane Lugano tweeted for help, with Sabine’s details. The tweet got Swaraj’s attention, and she immediately ordered that a hunt be launched to find Sabine. She was finally found in ‘mentally disturbed state’, and flown back to Netherlands.

Agratha Dinakaran’s lost passport: When Agratha Dinakaran lost her passport and her money in Berlin, she tweeted asking if anyone had contacts that could help her, as it was after embassy hours. Swaraj got back to her and informed her that embassy officials will get in touch with her. Agratha then visited the Embassy the next day and got her permit.

Visa to perform father’s last rights: In October, last year, Sarika Takru reached out to Sushma via Twitter stating that her husband had passed away and her son was unable to get an Indian visa to perform the last rites of his father in India, because of the Embassy was closed for holidays. Sushma responded promptly and arranged for her son to get his visa.