As many as 48 civilian Indian sailors have been detained by Iran and Britain in the last three weeks amid rising tensions between Tehran and Western nations after the United States' withdrawal from a nuclear deal with the middle-eastern country last year.
Dijo was among the 18 Indians who were aboard the Stena Impero, a British-flagged oil tanker, when it was seized by Iran on Friday. The only relief for the chef's family members came from a pre-scripted video released by Iran state media FARS to show that the crew is safe. In the video, Dijo is seen prepping the ship kitchen.
"It's always worrying to think that your son will be crossing pressure zones or sensitive areas as part of his work. But there are family pressures and commitments. They have to continue to work. He was very happy with the job opportunity he got, and was just doing his job. As Iran and India have good relations, we will hopefully see all the Indians aboard released soon," Pappachan, Dijo's 58-year-old father, told NDTV.
Iran claims that it impounded the Stena Impero after it allegedly collided with a fishing vessel. But many believe that the oil tanker's seizure was a retaliatory move, given that it comes weeks after Britain detained an Iranian vessel - Grace 1 - off Gibraltar on suspicion of violating sanctions imposed on Syria.
Around 70 km from Pappachan's house in Ernakulam lives Raju, whose son Rejin was among the 24 Indians aboard the Grace 1. "One of the crew members managed to call his home and tell them that they were being treated well. But Rejin has not called home in about a month. His parents are old and worried," a relative, ON Anandan, told NDTV.
Minister of State for External affairs V Muraleedharan has said in a tweet that the Indian consulate in London will meet the crew aboard Grace 1 on July 24.
Our Mission @HCI_London is in constant touch with the Indian crew and also Royal Gibraltar authorities. Our High Commission team is visiting Gibraltar on 24 July to meet the crew. @narendramodi@PMOIndia@AmitShah@DrSJaishankar@VMBJP@MEAIndia— V. Muraleedharan (@MOS_MEA) July 22, 2019
"#TeamMEA is already working on the early release & repatriation of all 18 Indian crew members of Stena Impero. Our Embassy in Tehran is in constant contact with Iranian authorities to resolve this. We will keep you posted on further developments," Minister for External Affairs Dr S Jaishankar had tweeted earlier.
Today, Mr Muraleedharan tweeted that four of the Indians aboard the Grace 1 were arrested but later released on bail. Consular access was expected to be granted soon, he added.
Position on VLCC Grace 1: Of the 24 Indian nationals on board four have been arrested but released on bail. Senior officials of our Mission @HCI_London expected to get consular access by this evening. Will update. @narendramodi@PMOIndia@AmitShah@DrSJaishankar@VMBJP@MEAIndia— V. Muraleedharan (@MOS_MEA) July 24, 2019
The seizure of the British tanker is being seen as an escalation of the mounting tension between Iran and the West since May. British vessels have been advised to keep off the Strait of Hormuz for now.
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