“Airlift’ miscarries facts, while skipper makes wrong claims”
Suresh Mal Mathur –
In his articles published in Indian Newslink (February 15, March 1, and March 15, 2016), Captain Zain Juvale, who was Captain of ‘MV Safeer’ which was seized by the Iraqi army after invading Kuwait on August 2, 1990, has not given due credit for the role played by the Indian Embassy in Kuwait. His ship did not carry the first evacuees. Two hundred persons had left with Mr Gujral on August 20, 2016 in an Indian Air Force aircraft, while Air India had already evacuated more than 10,000 persons from Amman by the time ‘MV Safeer’ sailed from Kuwait on September 4, 1990.
There was no aerial attack on Kuwait and Captain Juvale’s tale of bombardment is rather erroneous.
His contention of being totally out of contact with the outside world during the period of detention in Kuwait seaport is also misplaced in view of my two visits to the ship and his meeting with Mr Gujral.
According to information that was available at the Indian Embassy, the Indian government was in favour of rescuing Indians on ‘MV Safeer,’ which was God-sent opportunity in the grim and disparate situation in Kuwait.
Suresh Mal Mathur, now retired (and living in Jodhpur, Rajasthan), was the Second Secretary at the Indian Embassy in Kuwait during the tumultuous months following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent liberation of the oil-rich Gulf State by allied forces led by America on February 28, 1991. A detailed version as recounted by him appears under Viewlink, appears on Page 12 of this issue. He forwarded to us the following letter which he sent to the Indian government just before ‘Airlift’ was released in January this year.
As mentioned previously, the Editor of this newspaper was stationed in Bahrain and covered the Gulf War (I) extensively including visiting Kuwait on liberation. His comments carried in our previous issues are not under dispute.
- Thousands of Indians were evacuated from Kuwait between August and November 1990
- Indian expatriates from Kuwait wait in Amman to return home
Shri Mridul Kumar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, Delhi
From: From: Suresh Mal Mathur, Former Second Secretary, Indian Embassy, Kuwait
I am a retired Officer of Indian Foreign Service and was posted to our Embassy in Kuwait from August 1987 to November 1990.
I recently learnt about ‘Airlift,’ a Hindi film which claims to be based on true events of evacuation of Indians from Kuwait in 1990 in the aftermath of the Iraqi attack on Kuwait. I presume that the maker of the film should have consulted the Ministry of External Affairs and Indian Missions in Kuwait, Baghdad and Amman before finalising the theme of the movie.
However, after seeing the coverage on various websites and the trailer of the movie which is slated to be released on January 22, 2016, I suspect that the maker of the film has definitely tampered with facts.
The hero of the movie has been shown as the person who took the lead for evacuation of Indians, organised the entire operation and played a major role with the help of Indian government. I am not aware of any Indian in Kuwait who played this role bigger than the job done by Indian government with the cooperation of Indian associations in Kuwait.
Apart from this travesty of truth which the producer may try to cover up with the usual disclaimer, there are certain scenes which distort historical facts and impacts India’s relations with Kuwait.
In one scene, a high government functionary, perhaps a Minister, is shown as saying, “Kuwait is not our priority.”
This dialogue of doubtful veracity not only denigrates Indian government but also hurts our relations with Kuwait as Kuwaitis may feel slighted and offended.
In another scene, the hero is shown telling External Affairs Ministry officials that he wants to talk about Indians in Kuwait and says, “We need help and we need it right now,” in a very authoritative manner. This scene is fake because Kuwait’s phone link with the outside world was cut off from the morning of August 2, 1990.
Moreover, the Ministry was closed on that day because of Muharram Holiday.
Both these scenes have been picturised to eulogise the performance of hero and undermine the role of Indian government, which is shown as reluctant to help.
The film may contain more glaring blunders to give credit to this fictitious hero.
As I was involved in the real operation, I feel that apart from hijacking the credit for the job done by so many people as a team, the film may mislead the masses about the real history. I have brought this matter to your attention for whatever action you deem necessary.
S M Mathur