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Why should an ordinary Indian be concerned with the Iraq crisis?

Thursday, 19 June 2014 - 7:20pm IST Updated: Thursday, 19 June 2014 - 11:30pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna webdesk

  • iraq-crisis Reuters

According to historians and analysts, we are believed to be in a generation where world peace is at much better position than it was during the blood bath during the world wars. However, perhaps it's time to open our eyes with the recent Iraq crisis. The basic questions that arise are; what is the magnitude of this crisis and how is the average Indian affected?

The Iraq crisis sparked when the jihadist militant organisation, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)‚Äč attacked Iraq. They launched the assault on Baiji refinery, about 200km (130 miles) north of the capital Baghdad, early on Wednesday.

The situation took a horrifying turn when the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that 40 Indian construction workers had been kidnapped by the ISIS. These Indians are construction workers, that worked for Tariq Alhuda company and come from mostly North India.

The conquest of Mosul in June has sent shock waves around the world. With Narendra Modi's first foreign crisis at hand, the actions the Indian government takes in the wake of this crisis, will have economic and social implications that will create a land mark in Indian Foreign policy.

Read More: Why Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be worried about the Iraq crisis

The knife of terror grips onto Iraq and it is a matter of deep concern that these construction workers are stuck in an area which is under the threat of the most merciless terror group. They currently hold the tag of being the most brutal terrorist organisation in the areas they control. Indian hostages are traded like commodities, if we do not take appropriate diplomatic decisions at this delicate stage then we may become propaganda value for these terrorist organisations. Thus this becomes a matter of deep concern not only directly on the lives of the 40 who have been kidnapped, but also the 10,000 Indians that are inhabitants of Iraq.

Read More: Iraq crisis: Won't leave any stone unturned to rescue abducted Indians, says Sushma Swaraj

Read More: Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has sent old Iraq hand Suresh Reddy to Baghdad to establish contact with the kidnapped Indian workers

Besides the lives in danger, the threat indirectly hangs on the 1.2 billion residents of India that are extremely dependent on the basic domestic fuel -- oil. India imports nearly two-thirds of its oil needs, leaving its currency especially vulnerable to price swings. As the attack launched on Wednesday in northern Iraq, the price of Brent crude rose towards $114 a barrel.

Reuters reported the Indian government expects oil prices to rise as high as $120 per barrel for several months due to the conflict in Iraq, potentially driving a hole of at least Rs200 billion ($3.3 billion) in the budget.

India falls amongst the list of countries that rely on gulf countries and Iraq in particular for the supply of oil. As we continue to be dependent, the stability in gulf countries continues to deteriorate. Every time a crisis happens our economy is threatened, we cannot afford the damages. This would imply sky rocketing prices of petrol, which is currently already around Rs 80/litre. It may even result in the most fearful economic condition -- inflation. When the price of oil goes up, it is accommodated around the world by cutting back on other things – investment in manufacturing facilities, infrastructure and individual consumption which would further slow down our ambitious economy.

The social implications of Iraq under terror directly affect the employment aspirant Indians. Iraq requires a large number of labourers as a lot of reconstruction work is going on to rebuild the country. This drives many Indians who get attracted to the pay packages that these jobs have to offer. Despite a government ban on working in Iraq, many Indians still travel to the war-torn country to gain employment by using the UAE and Kuwait as a transit route.

In 2004, the Indian government imposed a ban on traveling to Iraq after the abduction of three Indian truck drivers. However this has never stopped Indians to go against all odds, to work as drivers, plumbers or labourers for American and Iraqi companies.

While the Indian advisory continues to warn the workers, there is no way to physically stop the Indians that are inspired with what the oil business has to offer. The workers are always dependent on external forces such as the US that invest in the security of their embassy's. However, the ISIL attack comes across as a dangerous shock, and their growing terror and influence poses a threat to the future of the jobs of lakhs of people and thousands of Indians.

The location of the 40 workers has been located, it is not disclosed to the public. It is time to wait and watch what diplomatic steps the government does, keeping in mind that their decisions, will have major social and economic implications.

Read More: Iraq crisis: 2 of the 40 Indian kidnapped workers from Himachal Pradesh; ferocious ISIL are killing people like mosquitoes, say Indians back from Iraq

Pankti Dalal is a political enthusiast. When she is not studying political science at St Xavier's College, Mumbai, Pankti seen at dna web desk learning the ropes of journalism

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