New Delhi: The government appears to be in deep slumber in seeking the release of the sailors held hostage in the Gulf of Aden even as after six months of captivity by Somali pirates.

With only a week remaining for expiry of the deadline set by the sea brigands to meet their demands, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna met some of the family members of Indian sailors and passed the buck to Shipping Ministry.

"It is not for the Minister of External Affairs to negotiate. We can only facilitate to identify the owner of the ship," Krishna said after meeting the families of the captive sailors while noting that the Shipping Ministry was the nodal authority in such cases.

The Indian sailors were on board an Egyptian cargo ship, MV Suez that was hijacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden on August August 2, 2010. The ship's crew includes four Pakistanis, six Indians, four Sri Lankans and 11 Egyptians.
The pirates have reportedly demanded USD 4 million for the release of the six Indians.

Arya Sampa, wife of captured sailor Ravinder Gulia said, "S M Krishna has assured us that the government is making its best efforts. He has also asked us to meet the Shipping Minister," she said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said, "Owner of MV Suez, an Egyptian company, had promised to take action to free hostages but nothing was done. The DG Shipping continues his efforts."

Ironically, the Minister said the safety and welfare of Indians was the highest priority of the government.

(Agencies)