India to evacuate citizens, diplomats still in Afghanistan
With the Taliban taking control of Kabul and tragedies galore, India on Monday reviewed the situation as many of its citizens including diplomatic staff are stuck and the airport closed for commercial operations. The IAF (Indian Air Force) and Air India are on standby with two transport planes of the IAF likely to fly to Kabul soon. Around six Indian journalists including women are now parked in the Indian Embassy.
In fact, one C-17 Globemaster transport plane of the IAF has already landed in Kabul and is likely to return to New Delhi on Monday late evening with the Indian diplomatic staff and some others, said Indian officials spearheading the evacuation. Moreover, another C-17 returned to New Delhi on Monday afternoon carrying some diplomatic staff. The two aircraft circumvented Pakistani airspace to land at the Kabul airport, it was learned.
The government is closely monitoring all developments in Afghanistan. We have been issuing periodic advisories for the safety and security of Indian nationals in that country, including calling for their immediate return to India.
Against this backdrop, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba held detailed discussions with senior officials of various ministries including external affairs and civil aviation here on Monday. The focus was on bringing out the Indians safely as soon as possible, sources said here later. India is also in touch with the Taliban’s political office based in Doha, Qatar. On Sunday, an Air India flight transported some important and “friendly” Afghan leaders to Delhi before the Taliban captured the Presidential Palace.
Refraining from giving details, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said later on Monday “the security situation in Kabul has deteriorated significantly in the last few days. It is changing rapidly even as we speak.”
“The government is closely monitoring all developments in Afghanistan. We have been issuing periodic advisories for the safety and security of Indian nationals in that country, including calling for their immediate return to India. We had circulated emergency contact numbers and had also been extending assistance to community members. We are aware that there are still some Indian nationals in Afghanistan who wish to return and we are in touch with them.”
He also said the Indian government was in constant touch with the representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities. “We will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wishes to leave Afghanistan. There are also a number of Afghans who have been our partners in the promotion of our mutual developmental, educational, and people-to-people endeavours. We will stand by them,” he said. Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh earlier in the day appealed to the external affairs minister to make immediate plans to bring out more than 300 Sikhs now stranded in Kabul.
Meanwhile, Bagchi also said “commercial operations from Kabul airport have been suspended today (Monday). This has forced a pause in our repatriation efforts. We are awaiting the resumption of flights to restart the process.” Officials said two Air India aircraft along with two C-17 transport planes of the IAF were on standby to bring out the Indian diplomatic staff and Indian citizens working in Afghanistan. There is 100-odd diplomatic staff at present in Kabul besides 1,500 Indian citizens working in various private firms and other institutions.
The spokesperson also said the situation in Afghanistan is being monitored on a “constant basis at high levels” and assured the government will take all steps to ensure the safety and security of Indian nationals and “our interests in Afghanistan.”
The government has a tough task at its hand as the Kabul airport is now closed for commercial operations and chaos prevails there. Amidst that, the government may have to work through back channels to ensure the safety and security of its diplomatic staff besides Indian citizens traveling from the embassy to the airport, they said.
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