New Delhi: Ending a 10-month-long ordeal, six Indian sailors, who were part of the 22-member crew of MV Suez vessel that was recently freed from Somali pirates, reached Delhi from Karachi on Friday.
The sailors, who reached the national capital via a Dubai, had an emotional reunion with family members at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. Government representatives were also present along with a strong media contingent.
The six Indian seafarers - NK Sharma, Prashant Chauhan, Satnam Singh, Ravinder Singh, Sachin Pauche and Biju - had reached Karachi, yesterday, onboard the Pakistani naval ship PNS Zulfiqar.
Besides six Indians, the 22-member crew included four Pakistanis, one Sri Lankan and 11 Egyptians.
Speaking to the media, visibly moved third-officer of MV Suez, NK Sharma, said, “We have undergone a horrible ordeal. We are happy to be back in our motherland. We are grateful to all those who helped secure our release.”
Reminiscing the days spent in captivity of the pirates, Sharma said, “We suffered a lot. We were in captivity, starving…sometimes even without water.”
Another sailor Ravidner Singh, “It was a matter of life and death for us. This is our second life.”
His colleague Biju couldn’t hold back his tears. He said that many times during the ordeal he had doubts whether he will survive to see his family in Kanyakumari.
“Pirates used to come to our room and announce that one of us would be killed soon. I was scared that they may kill us,” he said.
Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna has thanked Pakistan for the help provided to ensure safety of the Indian sailors.
"We are relieved that their ordeal has ended…we appreciate the timely help extended to them and sailors of other countries, by the Pakistani Navy," he said in a statement.
At the same time, the Minister noted that 500 other sailors from across the world are still in captivity of pirates and pressed for coordinated efforts by countries to fight the scourge of piracy.
Somali pirates had released the crew of the Egyptian-owned Suez after a ransom of USD 2.1 million was reportedly paid. Pakistani Human Rights activist Ansar Burney played a key role in the negotiations with the pirates for releasing the crew members.
However, within hours of being declared free, the Suez was attacked by pirates again.
Pakistan deputed a warship - the PNS Babur - to escort the Suez to safer waters. India meanwhile had been accused of ignoring pleas for help, both from the crew and from the family.
When the INS Godavari was eventually sent to the Suez by India, a diplomatic row erupted. India accused the PNS Babar of aggressive manouvering which led to it grazing the Indian warship. Both the countries issued strong statements and the Pakistan High Commissioner was summoned by the MEA.
Then the Suez ran into technical trouble while it was being escorted to Salalah in Oman. The 22 crew members of the Suez had to be transferred to the PNS Babur. They finally reached Karachi on the PNS Zulfiqar.