| Updated at: 1137 PST, Friday, June 24, 2011|
NEW DELHI: Anxious parents, wives and children holding posters that said "Thank You, Burney Uncle" waited for hours at the Delhi Airport this morning. This wait, so different than the agonising 10 months while their men were hostages for Somali pirates.
Ending a 10-month-long ordeal, six Indian sailors, who were part of the 22-member crew MV Suez vessel that was recently freed by Somali pirates, reached Delhi from Karachi on Friday.
They reached the national capital via a Dubai-Delhi flight.
They 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.
External Affairs Minister SM Krishna has thanked Pakistan for the help provided to ensure safety of the Indian sailors. Relived that the ordeal has ended of the sailors, Krishna said that India appreciates timely help extended to sailors by the Pakistan Navy.
Somali pirates released the crew of the Egyptian-owned ship, who were held for about 10 months, 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. The posters that thanked him at the Delhi Airport today were a tiny manifestation of what he means to the families of the Indian sailors.
However, within hours of being declared free, the Suez was attacked again by pirates.
Pakistan deputed a warship - the PNS Babur - to escort the Suez to safer waters. India has been accused of ignoring pleas for help, both from the crew and from the family.
Sailors and their families say the Indian government ignored cries for help. After criticism, India deputed the INS Godavari to pull up along the Suez. At this point, India claims, aggressive manouevres by the Pakistani warship led to it grazing the Godavari. Strong statements were issued by both countries.
The Suez ran into technical trouble while it was being escorted to Salalah in Oman. The 22 crew members of the Suez were then transferred to the PNS Babur. They finally reached Karachi on the PNS Zulfiqar.
As a gesture of goodwill, the owners of MV Suez, Red Sea Navigation, had borne the expenses for repatriating the sailors to India.