In what can be termed as a diplomatic coup, the Indian government has secured the release of all 46 nurses from the clutches, albeit benign, of the ISIS fighters in Iraq. The way they were released and brought back to their home state of Kerala, is certainly the stuff of legend.
Ironically enough, the nurses had only good things to speak about the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) men who, they said, gave them food and allowed them to call home and behaved with them very decently.
Nevertheless, the lingering thought of what might happen the next minute had something of a traumatic effect on them. Their uncertainty and agony ended only when the chartered plane carrying them touched the tarmac of the Kochi airport.
The details of the negotiations and the diplomatic nuances were, however, not revealed apparently because of the safety concerns of thousands of Indian workers in Iraq.
But one thing is notable: for the first time in Indian diplomatic history in recent times, our diplomats moved out of the familiar grooves in their bid to secure the release of the harried nurses, admiringly referred to by the Kerala media as angels.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy expressed his thanks and praise for External Affairs Minister Sushma Swraj, who he said, had been cooperative to a fault.
The safe return of the nurses was the result of an out-of-the-box strategy adopted and carried out in synergy by all concerned.
The usual suspicion whether money was involved was ruled out by sources in the know as the ISIS fighters are said to be awash with money.
The fighters could then have kept these hapless women captive for using as human shield in their battle ahead. We now learn that some Gulf countries extended their help too in sorting things out with the fighters.
Even Indian businessmen in Iraq were said to have lent a hand in this operation.
The chief minister and some of his ministers had camped in New Delhi and had kept in touch with the nation's top diplomat and key officials for several days and the CM returned to Kerala only after ensuring the safe return of the trapped nurses.
The elated nurses were given a rapturous welcome by Oommen Chandy, ministers, local officials and the public. The state government arranged hassle-free road journey back home for them.
At the airport the hugely relieved nurses, all 46 of them, were heard profusely thanking the chief minister, the central government and the Indian embassy staff for their relentless efforts to ensure
They said they were free to phone the chief minister and talk to him any time, even past midnight.
Chandy, known for being a workaholic, has demonstrated that he can spring into action during a crisis and persevere until he's home and dry.
The safe return of the nurses was a huge relief not just for their kith and kin but to the entire people of Kerala who are highly appreciative of the role played by the authorities concerned.
The successful conclusion of a delicate operation bears out the good old saying: "if there's a will, there's a way". It is a good testament to the fact that the central and the state governments, irrespective of which party is in power, can crack any knotty problem if they work in synergy and with sincerity of purpose.
Experts have commented that even western nations like the US were left gobsmacked at the way the government secured the release of the nurses.
Instead of remaining smug at the feat, the authorities need to get cracking to bring the 39 construction workers held captive in Mosul and the nurses trapped in Diyala, another war zone, at a fast clip.
It is incumbent on the authorities to rehabilitate the nurses who now have to pay back their loans which they had taken for education and giving recruiting agencies early this year.
Many of them hadn't received their salary for four-five months. As a TV reporter commented the other day, the only thing they have saved is their life. We hope that the chief minister would follow through on his promise to rehabilitate them in short order.
Some overseas and domestic hospital groups have come out with offers. Tres bien.
In Kerala, there has been a flurry of allegations, of late, against some local hospitals which are bent on exploiting nurses and giving them below-par wages. The government should see that they get decent remuneration.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.