External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday said she would not declare the 39 Indians missing in Iraq as dead till she has concrete evidence to that effect.
"I repeat, I will not declare them (the missing Indians) dead until we have concrete evidence to that effect," she told Rajya Sabha.
The Minister said that she "never said in Parliament or outside that they are alive, as being claimed by some Congress MPs".
There were some sharp exchanges between the Minister and Congress members Pratap Singh Bajwa and Ambika Soni as the latter accused the government of "shifting goal posts" and demanded to know why she was not trusting the word of Harjit Masih, one of the 40 Indians captured by the Islamic State in Iraq in June 2014, who claimed that the rest of the group had been shot dead.
"Why would Harjit Masih tell a lie? What would he get out of it?" Bajwa asked.
"I have reasons to not trust Harjit Masih. I was the first one to speak with him when he first contacted Indian authorities soon after the incident. I repeatedly asked him over phone as to how he survived when the rest were shot dead according to him. But he kept saying he did not know," Sushma Swaraj said.
"Secondly, the family of Nishan Singh, one of the missing persons, says they spoke with him on June 17 (2014). How is this possible when Harjit claims they were killed on June 15?" she said.
Congress MPs Bajwa and Soni demanded to know what the Minister's sources were on whose basis she was claiming that the missing persons may be alive. 
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