Indians on seized tankers to figure in Jaishankar-Raab talks

New Delhi


India and Britain are likely to discuss the issue of over 40 Indian sailors stranded aboard seized oil tankers amid rising tensions between the UK and Iran, when External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar meets his British counterpart Dominic Raab in Bangkok on Thursday.

Jaishankar and newly-appointed British Foreign Secretary Raab would be holding bilateral talks on the sidelines of the East Asian Summit meeting in Bangkok, in their first such meeting after taking over their posts.

The two ministers will "discuss geo-political issues that we want to work on, global issues that we want to work on, and of course bilateral issues that we need to take forward", British High Commissioner Dominic Asquith told reporters here.

British marines detained the Iranian super tanker Grace 1 on July 4 in the Strait of Gibraltar. The ship was detained as it was suspected of carrying oil to war-torn Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

The captain of the ship, an Indian, has accused the Royal Marines of unnecessary "brute force" when detaining the ship.

In a retaliatory measure, Iran's Revolutionary Guards detained a British-flagged tanker, Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19, which has 18 Indians onboard, besides crew from other nations.

A three-member team from the Indian High Commission met the 24 Indians on board 'Grace 1' on July 24 and told them the government will take the necessary steps for their release and repatriation, the spokesperson said.

India is also in talks with Tehran for release of the 18 Indians on Stena Impero.

Asquith said it was a "completely legitimate act" by the UK marines in detaining Grace 1, as it was flouting EU sanctions.

"There is no question of a swap," Asquith said, reiterating his country's stand on whether it could release the Iranian tanker in exchange for Stena Impero.

He also said release of the Indians on board Grace 1 was for the "Gibraltar authorities to decide" and "They have their own judicial process".

On the Indian captain's criticism of the UK marines, Asquith said the captain was "unaware" of the EU sanctions.

Raab's visit to Bangkok where he will interact with Foreign Ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) comes as the UK prepares to exit the European Union on October 31 and it is searching for new markets and investment opportunities. IANS