Once again, terrorism raised its ugly head on 15 December 2014 when an armed person held 17 people hostage in Sydney, Australia. At about 0945 hrs local time, in Lindt Cafe in Martin Place, a busy part of Sydney’s Central Business District, a hostage drama unfolded. The hostages included Mr. Pushpendu Ghosh and Mr. Viswakanta Ankireddy, both young IT professionals from Infosys working on an assignment with Westpac Bank located close to the Cafe. While Mr Ghosh is an Indian citizen, Mr. Ankireddy is an Australian national of Indian origin.
Our Government maintained close contact with Australian security agencies to monitor security of Mr. Ghosh and Mr. Ankireddy. Prime Minister himself was constantly monitoring the whole situation. We provided valuable, timely and actionable inputs to establish their identity and monitor their welfare. I myself spoke to the wife of Mr. Ankireddy twice during the day to assure her of all Government support for the security and well-being of her husband. We were also in constant contact with Infosys offices in Australia and India.
The hostage drama ended after over 14 hours at about 0200 hrs. local time on 16 December. Both Mr. Ghosh and Mr. Ankireddy were rescued safely and were in good health. We admire their bravery in such testing times. We also admire the bravery of Mrs. Shilpa Ankireddy who never lost hope.
Once the details of the siege were apparent, we also ensured the safety and security of the officials working at our Consulate in Sydney, which is located barely 350 metres from the Cafe, by liaising with the local security agencies. The Consulate was shut down, however, consular services like visa, passport, OCI and PIO cards, continued as normal since these are provided at a safe distance from the Cafe.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday and thanked him for his leadership that led to the resolution of the crisis and the release of the hostages. He also conveyed deepest condolences to the families of the two innocent persons who lost their lives in the hostage crisis.
The incident in Sydney is a grim reminder to governments, societies and individuals of the threat held out by terrorism anywhere in the world. We have ourselves been victims of terrorist acts against this Parliament, our temple of democracy, in the year 2001. It is my Government’s resolve to fight all forces of terror so that we can all live and prosper in a peaceful and harmonious society.
Even before the reverberations from the terrorist attack in Sydney to our East ended, one of the most horrific killings in recent times were perpetrated on our west, in Peshawar. The enormity of this crime; the cowardly nature of the massacre; the barbaric brutality of the killing of 132 innocent school children and 9 others, yesterday, has evoked revulsion all around.
Our Government has swiftly and strongly condemned this. Prime Minister Modi reflected the entire nation’s feelings, when he termed it “a senseless act of unspeakable brutality”. In their darkest hour, we reached out and expressed our heartfelt condolences to the grief stricken families, transcending boundaries and differences. Prime Minister in a late night conversation with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif informed him that the people of India shared the heart-rending pain and sorrow of the bereaved families and the people of Pakistan and stood with them in solidarity.
The events of the last two days were on two different continents; in different hemispheres; on our two opposite flanks. While seemingly disparate, both are manifestations of the darkening shadow of terrorism. Both these developments, taken together, are a clarion call for all those who believe in humanity to join hands to decisively and comprehensively defeat terrorism. On our part, India stands ready to play our role in this global endeavour.