New Delhi: Uncertainty looms over the release of 26 sailors of a Norwegian vessel nabbed by Guinea Navy on the charges of oil theft.
It is learned that half of the 16 Indian sailors aboard the vessel were handed over to Nigeria on Friday. They were transferred via a Nigerian navy ship.
The development comes amid concerted efforts by India's External Affairs Ministry and its embassies to prevent this very scenario.
India had earlier requested Equatorial Guinea to let its citizens be brought back to the country rather than to Nigeria. However, it seems this did not happen.
What perhaps imbibes the Indian authorities with hope still is the fact that the Guinean authorities had prevented Nigerian soldiers from entering the vessel.
They had apparently insisted that the latter can enter the vessel only in the presence of Indian authorities.
The vessel, MT Heroic Idun, continues to be in the custody of the Guinea Navy.
Furthermore, the fact that Indian embassy officials were able to meet the sailors twice shows that the governments of Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria are following international regulations under such situations, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said.
It was on August 8, when MT Heroic Idun was anchored on the maritime border of Nigeria after experiencing technical snags, that the vessel was detained by Guinea Navy.
The Guinean move came on the behest of Nigeria, which suspected that the Norwegian vessel had arrived to steal oil.
Though the Norwegian company had reached out with a monetary offering to see its crew released, the Navy did not budge.
As per the latest reports, MT Heroic Idun will be taken to Nigeria under the control of both its forces and the Guinean Navy.
Of the 26 sailors aboard, sixteen are Indians. Three among them are Keralites - Kochi natives Sanu Joseph and Milton, and Nilamel native Vijith.