The taking into custody of 40 Indians, drawn into the crossfire of a bitter power struggle in Iraq between an assertive but marginalised Sunni minority and the government led by President Nouri al-Maliki, has brought into focus the Narendra Modi government’s crisis management skills. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a jihadi group, is apparently behind the detention and relocation of the workers, who are from Punjab, into a cotton warehouse in the vicinity of Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city that is an ethnically divided demographic powder keg. Yet, there are indications that Sunni tribesmen, who may not share the ISIS’s virulent extremist ideology but are in a tactical embrace with it in order to counter the government of Mr. Nouri al-Maliki, which has Shia overtones, are holding the victims. The detentions, along with the entrapment of 46 nurses in a Tikrit hospital, is cause for deep anxiety; the crisis has dwarfed the 2004 abduction and release of three Indian truck drivers near Baghdad. Apart from India, countries such as China and Turkey, whose nationals have been detained in large numbers, are experiencing the pain. The blowback of the incident has hit the government hard, persuading External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to meet the distraught families of the victims, who have no option but to seek solace from the Central government.