Source : Press Trust of India (PTI)
2000 Indians evacuated from Sudan, Situation highly volatile, focus is to take every Indian out of harm’s way : Foreign Secretary Kwatra
New Delhi: The security situation in Sudan remains very complex, highly volatile and unpredictable and India’s objective is to get every stranded Indian in that country out of harm’s way, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Thursday.
Briefing reporters on the ongoing evacuation mission ‘Operation Kaveri’, Kwatra said approximately 1,700 to 2,000 Indian nationals were moved out of the conflict zones and they included the citizens already evacuated out of Sudan as well as those who are on their way to Port Sudan from capital city Khartoum.
The foreign secretary said India has been in touch with the two warring factions in Sudan and other stakeholders and has been able to evacuate its citizens following a positive response from the concerned sides as they understand that New Delhi stands for a very strong development partnership with Khartoum.
“The situation on the ground is very complex, highly volatile and unpredictable. We have been in touch with both SAF (Sudanese Armed Forces) and RSF (Rapid Support Forces). Our relations have been good. We are in touch with all sides to get the Indians from conflict zones to safe areas and then to Port Sudan,” Kwatra said.
On the total number of Indians in Sudan, he said approximately 3,100 have registered online with the Indian embassy in the Sudanese capital Khartoum while an additional 300 are in touch with the mission. Sudan also has around 900 to 1,000 PIOs (Persons of Indian Origins).
Under ‘Operation Kaveri’, India has been taking its citizens in buses from conflict zones of Khartoum and other troubled areas to Port Sudan from where they are being taken to the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah in Indian Air Force’s heavy-lift transport aircraft and Indian Navy’s ships.
The distance between Khartoum and Port Sudan is around 850 kms and the travel time by bus varies from 12 hours to 18 hours considering the prevailing situation and whether the vehicles are operating during the day or night.
The Indian Navy has deployed its warships INS Sumedha, INS Teg and INS Tarkash while the Indian Air Force has deployed two of its C130J transport aircraft. The ships and aircraft are being used to take the Indians to Jeddah, from where they are being flown to India.
“Our objective and target is to take the stranded Indians out of harm’s way as early as possible…Our effort is to get every stranded Indian out of harm’s way and into an area of relative safety and then to Port Sudan and back here (India),” he said.
India has already set up separate control rooms in Jeddah, Port Sudan and the India embassy in Khartoum has been coordinating with them besides being in touch with the MEA’s headquarters in Delhi.
Kwatra said around 600 Indian nationals have either arrived in India or are on their way. As many as 360 Indians arrived in New Delhi by a chartered flight last night from Jeddah.
“We currently have 495 Indian nationals in Jeddah. 320 Indians are in Port Sudan. We have more buses for bringing more people to Port Sudan,” Kwatra said.
The foreign secretary also said that 42 Indian nationals have moved to South Sudan.
Kwatra said the government of India’s effort has been to advise and assist the stranded Indians to remain safe and help them move to secure locations whenever feasible after carefully evaluating the conflict situation.
He also said that India has received evacuation requests from other nationalities.
“We are willing to provide all assistance. This is subject to fulfilment of all the procedures required,” he said.
Asked whether India will evacuate the PIOs, Kwatra said New Delhi will extend all support if there is a request from them.
The foreign secretary thanked Saudi Arabia for all the assistance including the landing and docking of Indian military transport aircraft and naval ships in Jeddah.
“Saudi Arabia has been extremely helpful and we are very grateful to them,” he said.
Sudan has been witnessing deadly fighting between the country’s army and a paramilitary group that has reportedly left around 400 people dead.
External Affairs Minister Jaishankar on Monday announced the launch of the mission to evacuate ‘Operation Kaveri’ to bring back the stranded Indians from Sudan.
India on Sunday said it has positioned two transport aircraft of the IAF in Jeddah and the naval ship INS Sumedha at Port Sudan as part of its contingency plans to evacuate the Indians.
Apart from the Sudanese authorities, the MEA and the Indian embassy in Sudan have been in regular touch with the UN, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and the US among others.
At a high-level meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued directions for the preparation of contingency plans to evacuate Indians from Sudan.
Last week, Jaishankar spoke to his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt on the ground situation in Sudan with a focus on ensuring the safety of the Indians. 2000 Indians evacuated from Sudan, Situation highly volatile, focus is to take every Indian out of harm’s way : Foreign Secretary Kwatra 2000 Indians evacuated from Sudan, Situation highly volatile, focus is to take every Indian out of harm’s way : Foreign Secretary Kwatra 2000 Indians evacuated from Sudan, Situation highly volatile, focus is to take every Indian out of harm’s way : Foreign Secretary Kwatra 2000 Indians evacuated from Sudan, Situation highly volatile, focus is to take every Indian out of harm’s way : Foreign Secretary Kwatra IgMp