An Indian woman displays the photograph of her brother, an Indian worker who was kidnapped in Iraq, in the northern Indian city of Amritsar, June 2014.
Munish Sharma / Courtesy Reuters

Shortly after Narendra Modi became prime minister of India in May 2014, his government faced its first foreign policy crisis. Just weeks after his inauguration, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) captured 41 Indian construction workers in Mosul and 46 Indian nurses in Tikrit, producing one of India’s worst-ever hostage crises.

This was not the first time that New Delhi had been rocked by events 2,000 miles away. In 1990, for example, India had to evacuate over 110,000 citizens from the Middle East during the first Gulf War -- an operation that required just under 500 flights over a period of two

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