Sunday, February 7, 2016

Request for White Paper on Kuwait evacuation

The Foreign Secretary,
Ministry of External Affairs,
Government of India,
New Delhi
Sub- Request for White Paper on Kuwait evacuation
Dear Sir,
                I, Amitabh Thakur, a UP Cadre IPS officer, present this representation in my individual capacity as a citizen of this Nation---
1.       That recently released Indian film Airlift, directed and scripted by Sri Raja Krishna Menon, allegedly presents the story of the biggest civil operation of evacuation of Indians based in Kuwait during the Iraq-Kuwait war.
2.       That the film presents that after the Kuwait attack by Iraq, the Indian Embassy gets immediately evacuated in a most unexplainable and discernible manner. It also shows External Affairs Ministry, the Minister and other officials being completely oblivious of the problems being faced by the Indians in Kuwait. It shows them giving a very knew-jerk and insipid reaction
3.       That after watching the film, the following sets of opinion finally emerge- (a) The Indians living in Kuwait were left completely in lurch by the Government of India (b) The Government of India showed least interest in the matter (c) The entire External Affairs Ministry was completely oblivious of the matter, as if it had nothing to do with it (d) The matter was brought to notice of the Ministry only when an Indian in Kuwait actually contacted the Ministry through a Joint Secretary (e) Even after this intimation, the Government and its functionaries remained the most reluctant and it was only the sheer spirit of an individual who forced a few Government servants to undertake some of their responsibilities to finally manage this evacuation
4.       That in short, the film shows the Government of India, specially the External Affairs Ministry and its then Minister and officials in an extremely poor light.
5.       That to the best of my thinking and understanding, such a thing would possibly not have happened because 1.7 lakh Indians would not have been left in lurch by the Government just like that, as if even the Minister does not have basic information or concern about it. The portrayal prima-facie seems extremely disturbing and objectionable.
6.       That in response to the film, Sri Vikas Swarup, Spokesperson for MEW has tweeted through his official twitter handle on 28/01/2016-“Great entertainment but rather short on facts :) Here's our take” along with a 1.46 minutes Video. The Video presents three main points- (a) The ministry of external affairs considers the protection of Indian citizens abroad as among its foremost responsibilities, which it has done in the past and would do in the future (b) This is a film and has also taken a lot of artistic liberties in the depictions of the events that actually happened in Kuwait in 1990 (c) Very proactive role was played by the ministry of external affairs in the 1990 evacuation, when Official Indian delegation was sent to Baghdad and Kuwait and coordination was put in place with the civil aviation ministry, Air India and a number of other government departments.
7.       That Sri Swarup has also given link to Indian Foreign Affairs Journal Vol. 7, No. 1, January-March, 2011, 93-107  titled “Biggest Ever Air Evacuation in History” having interview of Sri K.P. Fabian, Head of the Gulf Division of the Ministry of External Affairs at that time.
8.       That after this official response, Sri Menon, through his Facebook page has responded on 03/02/2016 where among other things he said-“I started researching the story in 2003, and realised there was very little documented evidence available so I started speaking to the people involved. XXXX To research this very limitedly documented event, we spoke to hundreds of survivors, people who were stuck in Kuwait and then evacuated, pilots and air staff who flew the rescue missions, the businessmen and their families who are celebrated in the film, and many others.” Hence he concluded-“The story we have told is a fiction based on true events. Others involved may perhaps have other narratives but our narrative is one that we arrived at from the stories of the many we interviewed. It is from these stories that I know without a shadow of doubt that what we have depicted in the film might well be taking artistic liberties but is in essence the truth.
9.       That even the film poster says-“Based on a True event”
10.   That summing it up-(a) Airlift has definitely presented the Ministry of External Affairs response during Kuwait episode in an extremely poor light (b) The Film states again and again that it is based on true events (c) Even the director is quite unapologetic to say that the film in essence depicts the truth (d) Whatever efforts have been made by the Ministry through Sri Vikas Swarup’s tweet and/or video and the attached article do not seem to sufficiently wash away the ill-impact on the reputation and credibility of the Ministry’s functioning and response (e) There seems to be a definite need for the Ministry to clear the air about the Kuwait evacuation operation and not to leave it to the people to study the matter/history on their own as Sri Swarup has stated in the video
11.   That in view of the above facts and considering the mass-impact of films on public opinion, the applicant makes the following prayer
1.       To kindly issue a short White Paper on the evacuation of Indians from Kuwait after Iraq attack in 1990 whereby presenting the various efforts taken by the Government of India to get the Operation done successfully, along with acknowledging the role of few of the more prominent officials who made their remarkable contribution during the process
2.       To kindly direct the Producer and Director of Airlift to make it clear in the film in no uncertain terms that the portrayal of the Ministry of external Affairs and its officials is not historically correct and is nothing more than flight of imagination

Lt No-AT/Complaint/09/16                                Yours,
dated- 08/02/2016
                                (Amitabh Thakur)                                                                              5/426, Viram Khand,
Gomtinagar, Lucknow
# 94155-34526                                                                                                   

Copy to Sri Vikas Swarup, Spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi