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Newsline: Indian embassy helpline flooded with rescue calls in Iraq

The helpline set up by the Indian embassy in Baghdad has been receiving many calls for rescue. Travel documents of more than 800 people have been readied so that they can be brought back to India from different parts of Iraq. The ministry of external affairs issued a travel advisory for Indian nationals in Iraq and the Indian Embassy in Baghdad has opened six camp offices at Najaf, Karbala and Basra for assisting Indians with travel documents and paper work. Instructions to the workers have been issued in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Urdu and Hindi. Two officials from Hyderabad have been posted at Basra and Najaf to assist in Telugu. Srinivas Rao, a Telugu-speaking official assisting people in Najaf, Iraq, said that there are over 200 Telugu speaking people in Najaf. “The city so far has been peaceful. We have already issued a total of 800 to 1,000 documents for Indians to return to the country. Most of the men are construction workers and most of the women are nurses,” he said adding “We get over 100 calls every day. Some call for help, some call to enquire about their family.”


Newsline: India summons US diplomat over report of NSA spying

Reacting strongly to reports of BJP being spied upon by US National Security Agency (NSA), India on Wednesday summoned a top US diplomat here to raise the issue, saying it was “totally unacceptable” that an Indian organization or Indian individual’s privacy was transgressed upon. India also sought an assurance from the US that it will not happen again. However, officials did not say who was the US diplomat summoned by the external affairs Ministry. Significantly, the US currently has an interim ambassador Kathleen Stephens who came in after former US ambassador Nancy Powell resigned from her post. India also noted that it had raised the issue with the US administration in Washington and the Embassy here in July and November last year when reports emerged that NSA had spied upon individuals and entities and said it was still “awaiting a response from American on this”.


Newsline: Embassy officials accused of not cooperating with Indians stranded in Iraq

The NRI Sabha Punjab has alleged that Indian embassy in Baghdad was not cooperating with Indians stranded in Iraq, who have been complaining about the callous attitude of its officials. Sabha president Jasbir Singh Shergill said he tasted the callousness of officials posted in the Indian embassy when he desperately tried to inform them about 15 Punjabis stranded in Sulaymaniyah city of Iraq wanting to move from there to a safer place like Baghdad. Shergill said he received two calls from stranded persons on June 21, who sought help to be moved to a safer place. The NRI Sabha chief said he called up the Indian embassy in Baghdad to inform about the stranded persons requesting to be moved to a safer place. “The person attending the call said he was not concerned with the case, and asked me to contact on the other number. Then, after repeated calls at the other number, there was no response. Later, the previous number was also not being picked up. I then informed Jalandhar deputy commissioner about it, who then brought the matter to the notice of Punjab government and Centre. However, by that time, five of the stranded persons were abducted and no contact could be established with them,” he alleged. “We have received calls not only from Punjabis but people hailing from other states, too, who are stranded in Iraq. There was one common complaint from them that the Indian officials were callous and not helping them,” Shergill said, adding that the Indian government should have sought cooperation from US and UK, who are taking out their citizens from Iraq.


Newsline: Indian missions in US scramble to clean up visa mess

Indian missions in the US have turned to social media like Facebook and Twitter as they scrambled to clear up a visa mess in the wake of a change of contractors for processing consular services. Following complaints galore against the previous service provider BLS International, the Indian embassy here awarded the new contract for providing visa and other consular services to Cox & Kings Global Services from May 21. The switch, however, made the ordeal of travellers to India, particularly from the West Coast, worse in the initial days. Outrage and anger over delays boiled over into fights on at least two occasions at the outsourcing agency’s office in San Francisco last month, according to a media report. Earlier, to deal with the crisis, the Indian embassy in Washington DC and other Indian consulates in the US started moving own staff to consular service outsourcing centres to help the applicants. The missions also started providing visa services to all Urgent/Emergency cases directly and set up helplines for complaints against the previous and new service provider. The Indian embassy here also advised travellers to send their complaints about returned unprocessed applications despite payment to ConsularComplaints@indiagov.org with full details.


Newsline: Website of Indian Embassy in Tunisia hacked

After two attacks in Pakistan within 36 hours, the website of Indian Embassy in Tunisia was hacked, according to a report on the News Minute. According to the report, the hackers posted that there would be a similar attack carried out in Mumbai airport. It repeated the allegation of India’s involvement in supporting Pakistan. Pakistan witnessed one of the most audacious terror attack in its history when Threek-E-Taliban Pakistan launched a twin assault on Karachi airport. Just a day later after the siege ended the website of the Indian embassy in Tunisia has been hacked. The News Minute reports, hackers posted a message that vengeance would be taken for the Karachi airport attack. It repeats the unsubstantiated allegation of Indian involvement in Karachi attack and says similar attack would be carried out in Mumbai airport.


Newsline: Senior US diplomat to visit India

A senior U.S. diplomat will travel to New Delhi next week to meet with India’s new government. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal will be in India between June 6-9, after stops in Tajikistan and China. It will be first visit to India by a senior State Department official since elections this spring that brought Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power. The department said Biswal will meet a range of officials to review bilateral and regional issues, and meet business leaders. Washington is keen to get off on the right foot with the new Indian government to improve strained relations. But there could be awkwardness. Modi was refused a U.S. visa in 2005 over allegations he was complicit in deadly religious riots.


Newsline: India’s Foreign Secretary reviews mission security in Afghanistan

Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh air-dashed to Afghanistan to review the security arrangements at the Indian Consulate in Herat which was attacked by terrorists last week. According to official sources, she took stock of the situation arising from the attack and held extensive discussions in this regard with Indian Ambassador Amar Sinha and other senior officials. The top Indian diplomat also met the ITBP personnel who, along with Afghan security forces, repulsed the attack. The consulate staff escaped unharmed in the attack while all four terrorists were killed. India has decided to further beef up the security at the Indian Embassy in Kabul as well the consulates at Herat, Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kandahar. New Delhi’s apprehension is that such attacks on Indian assets are only going to increase in the run-up to the withdrawal by foreign forces from Afghanistan.



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