Mumbai shipping manager refutes sailor’s reports

Another three part-series of Iraqi occupation of Kuwait

Related Story under ViewlinkMumbai Shipping Manager refutes- Hanif Modak Web

Following the release of ‘Airlift,’ a Hindi film which was based on the Gulf War of 1991 following the occupation of Kuwait by Iraq in August 1990, we had run a series of three articles from Captain Zain Juvale, who was the Captain of ‘MV Safeer,’ a Cargo ship that was at that time in the Kuwaiti waters. The series appeared in our February 15, March 1 and March 15, 2016 issues. Some of his comments were challenged (Indian Newslink, April 1, 2016) by Suresh Mal Mathur who was Second Secretary at the Kuwaiti Embassy in Safat, Kuwait during the occupation.

Now, Hanif Mohammed Ibrahim Modak, son of the late Captain Ibrahim Hussain Modak, Joint Owner of ‘MV Safeer’ has further refuted some of the claims of Captain Juvale. His comments, which he says ‘clarifies issues’ appear on this page, under Viewlink and in our next one or two editions.

Some basic credentials

Hanif Mohammed Ibrahim Modak

Mumbai, July 30, 2016

I have been actively involved in ship management services since 1981.

I have managed ships of The National Iranian Tanker Company (an undertaking of the Iranian government), The Shipping Corporation of India (an undertaking of the Indian government) and ships of several other owners.

Regarding the evacuation of Indian nationals on ‘M V Safeer’ from Kuwait, I was fully involved with the mission assisting Captain V R Kekobad (Joint Owner). He was negotiating with the Ministries of Shipping and External Affairs of the Indian government and Iraqi authorities from India.

Late Captain Ibrahim H Modak was negotiating with various authorities from the owner’s office in Dubai (United Arab Emirates).

I am in possession of all the original documents such as ship’s log book, original radio messages sent by the Master (Captain Zain Juvale) and correspondence with government authorities.

Suresh Mal Mathur, Second Secretary at the Indian Embassy in Kuwait had boarded M V Safeer on August 11, 1990 and August 21, 1990.

These are the basic facts. I would now like to answer and clarify some of the statements and comments made by Captain Juvale in Indian Newslink.

Sorry, no guns

The derogatory statements made by Captain Juvale regarding the Indian government need to be corrected and put out in the public domain.

He had said, “I was the Captain of ‘Safeer,’ a cargo ship in the Kuwaiti waters. I was captured along with my crew at gunpoint and held captives for 35 days in Kuwait.”

However, only August 2, 1990 (the day Iraq invaded Kuwait), the officers and crew were mustered outside the ship on the jetty and held at gunpoint. On the same day, the crew returned to ‘Safeer,’ and no guns were pointed at them until they sailed away on September 3, 1990. In fact, the Iraqi soldiers were friendly to them.

Not the first evacuation

Captain Juvale had said, “Through sheer determination, persuasion, and tactful handling of the Iraqi forces, I managed not only to get my crew and ship released but also rescued 725 Indians on board my small cargo ship, through mined waters. This was the first batch of Indians to be successfully rescued out of Kuwait.”

This is incorrect. The first batch of Indians left Kuwait with Inder Kumar Gujral, External Affairs Minister, who had visited Kuwait and Iraq, met President Saddam Hussain and obtained his permission for Indians living in Kuwait and Iraq to leave by road, sea or air under arrangement with the Indian government for for safe evacuation of its citizens.

Editor’s Note: Captain Zain Juvale’s three-part article that appeared in our February 15, March 1 and March 15, 2016 issues was triggered by ‘Airlift,’ an Akshay Kumar film in Hindi, which over-dramatised and over-stated the hero in the Kuwaiti Theatre.

Those of us who lived in Kuwait and/or covered the occupation of the Arab Gulf State by Iraq from August 2, 1990 and the ‘Gulf Storm’, the First Gulf War that led to the liberation of Kuwait on February 28, 1991 (after five days of war), would know that the film was far from depicting what really happened during those days.

While the evacuation of Indians from Kuwait through Amman, Jordan and not through Saudi Arabia (which would have been easier and faster) was undoubtedly the single largest human exercise of the modern era, it was nothing like what the film portrayed. I was among those who was in Kuwait in the days following its liberation and what I saw and reported was more heart-rending and tragic than anyone could have imagined.

Sanjeev Kohli, now High Commissioner of India in Wellington, was a Second Secretary at the Indian Embassy in Kuwait, which was closed by Inder Kumar Gujral, External Affairs Minister following his meeting with Saddam Hussein in late August 1990. Mr Kohli was sent to Amman, Jordan, to oversee evacuation of Indians who arrived from Kuwait. The evacuation was also overseen by Charles Manuel, who was at that time Manager of Air India in Bahrain, which looked after Jordan, an offline station.

Please read the continuation of the report by Hanif Mohammed Ibrahim Modak under Viewlink and in our next one or two issues.

If you have been involved in the Kuwaiti Theatre during the Iraqi occupation, please write to

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