This Article is From Jan 04, 2012

Indian traders being moved from Yiwu to Shanghai; diplomatic crisis averted

New Delhi: Two traders from Mumbai who were trapped in a hotel near Yiwu in China are being moved to safety, said External Affairs Minister SM Krishna this evening. The traders have been escorted by officers from the Indian consulate to Shanghai. "The Chinese Ambassador agrees that it is concern of the Chinese government that safety of every Indian in China, especially these two nationals' safety, is of utmost importance to them also," Mr Krishna said.

Earlier in the day, as tension escalated, China's ambassador to Delhi Zhang Yan met with Mr Krishna. He reportedly promised that assistance would be provided to Indian diplomats in their efforts to rescue the traders - Deepak Raheja and Shyam Sunder Agarwal. Waiting outside their hotel in the trading hub of Yiwu were  angry locals who are owed large amounts of money by  the company that the traders worked for.   Chinese authorities  had allegedly told Indian officials they would not provide any assistance unless the debt was settled.  "Please save us...get together and help us," pleaded Mr Agarwal in a phone interview to NDTV this afternoon. "They have stripped us, thrown things at us, beaten us, tortured us. We are being treated worse than animals," he said.  

Beijing also made a strong statement suggesting that India was blowing the incident out of proportion. "This is an individual case triggered by economic disputes. Chinese judicial authority is dealing with this case according to law. China hopes India can treat this case with objectivity and fairness, and actively educate Indian merchants in China to behave according to the Chinese law, behave honestly and operate legitimately," said Hong Lei, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.  

In China, officials say criminal proceedings will begin against five locals who held the Indians hostage for nearly 15 days over the business dispute. The Indian government has, for its part, reassured Chinese officials that  Mr Agarwal and Mr Raheja  will not be allowed to leave the country, and will stand trial in any civil suit that is justified.

Mr Agarwal and Mr Raheja worked for a company whose owner - reportedly a Yemeni national - is absconding after racking up a million-dollar debt. The Indians were  taken hostage by angry local traders in December.   S Balachandran, an Indian diplomat spent more than five hours in court on December 31 negotiating their release. He was not allowed to eat or visit the bathroom despite declaring he was a diabetic. He fainted and was rushed to hospital, provoking India to lodge a formal protest in China and in Delhi.