For all the wrong reasons, Iraq is once again making world headlines. The ancient land of the Hanging Gardens and Babylon today has to hang its head in dejection as its soil has, yet again, turned into one of the world’s most dangerous battlefields. The crops of peace that seemed on their way after the phased withdrawl of American troops from Iraq in 2011 have dried up. Instead has come up fresh harvests of conflict, initiated and triggered largely by the ISIS—a breakaway group of the Al Qaeda and its allies.
This is not the first time that Iraq has witnessed war. Between 1980 and 1988 the country fought Iran in a protracted and financially draining war that sunk its people into poverty. Oil exports, its biggest foreign exchange earner, dried up. Then in 1990, it entered into a war over disputed territory with Kuwait. In 2003, American troops entered Iraq after it appeared that under Saddam Hussein it was clandestinely developing chemical and biological weapons. A fugitive Hussein was captured, later tried and executed. Once again in 2014, a new crisis has erupted with the ISIS bent upon creating its own empire across the Levant. In the ISIS’ scheme of things the Iraqi regime must be thrown out. At present the weak Iraqi army is finding it tough to combat the ISIS given its ability for surprise attacks by the highly-trained, well-equipped and prepared militants.
As a result, Indian workers and businesses in Iraq are also suffering. Over 4,000 have returned to India, and others will soon be packing their bags and leaving. The situation is hostile, and already 46 Indian nurses have felt the jitters after they were kidnapped by the ISIS before being handed over safely for their return to India. Another 39 captured in Mosul are safe, but still far from home.
In our cover story we look at Iraq, its ancient and modern history, the new militancy, and the role of the Government in negotiating with Gulf countries to secure the release of Indians who are trapped there.
Elsewhere in the magazine we have a coverage of Union Minister Prakash Javadekar’s visit to Kenya, the first interaction of a cabinet minister outside India with its diaspora. We have a write-up on the Indian Memorial being planned in the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. There is also a feature on the Know India Programme with diaspora youth.
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