Amid continuous air attacks and shelling in civilian areas in the war-hit Ukraine, which led to the death of an Indian medical student on Tuesday, the Narendra Modi government has intensified its evacuation efforts to bring back stranded Indian nationals as the war enters the sixth day.
Thousands of Indian citizens, most of whom are medical students, are looking for a way out, while their families in India appeal for their safe evacuation and return to India. Here’s a look at the central government’s strategy of carrying out ‘Operation Ganga’ to ensure safe return of the stranded nationals.
- A flight carrying more than 100 stranded Indian students and citizens landed in Mumbai on Tuesday morning. Another flight, the ninth one, will land in New Delhi from Budapest. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also sent Union Ministers Hardeep Puri, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kiren Rijiju and Gen VK Singh who have stationed themselves in Hungary, Romania and Moldova, Slovenia and Poland respectively. These Union ministers will coordinate with officials present to bring back stranded citizens home.
- Of the four ministers sent Ukraine, Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri will be in-charge of evacuation efforts in Hungary, civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia will oversee the mission in Romania and Moldova. Law minister Kiren Rijiju will expedite the trans-border movement from Slovenia and roads and transport minister General VK Singh is in-charge of evacuation from Poland.
- The Indian embassy in Kyiv has asked Indian students and citizens to leave Kyiv immediately. It asked students and stranded citizens to take trains or other means of transportation. “All Indian nationals including students are advised to leave Kyiv urgently today. Preferably by available trains or through any other means available,” the Indian embassy in Kiev said in a tweet.
- The embassy had last week urged unnecessary panicked movements towards the border without intimating officials present in the borders of nations in west and southwest of Ukraine. However, people familiar with the developments have told CNNews18 that the directions were given after the situation in Kyiv slightly improved and the curfew was lifted temporarily. It asked stranded Indian students and citizens to reach the nation’s western borders.
- The Indian embassies in countries like Poland have been arranging buses for the students to safely reach the border, this after heavy diplomatic lifting between the two countries.
- The Indian Air Force has also been asked to deploy C-17 aircraft to boost evacuation efforts. The C-17 aircraft can carry 336 passengers and was used during the evacuation in Afghanistan last year. Besides airlifting the Indian nationals, the IAF aircraft will also be used to carry humanitarian aid to the war-hit country.
- While India’s efforts are reminiscent of Operation Raahat in Yemen and the urgency and commitment shown by it is exemplary, other powers like the United States and China have near-about given up on evacuating their citizens from Ukraine and are bluntly stating the same, shedding their responsibility towards their citizens.
- Germany has shut down its embassy in Ukraine and African students from Morocco, Nigeria and Egypt are also stranded and seeking help from their countries. The Indian embassy in Kyiv, however, is still functional. Indian authorities have released phone numbers and launched other modes of contact where stranded Indian students can reach out and coordinate with Indian officials.
- Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, on Monday, said that out of the nearly 20,000 Indian students, over 1,400 have been evacuated so far, while nearly 8,000 had heeded the travel advisories and exited the country before the invasion began.
- India’s first travel advisory urging citizens to leave Ukraine was issued on February 15, nine days before Russia’s military advance into the Eastern European country.
- While it has been difficult to ensure the seamless movement of citizens from the eastern parts of Ukraine to the western borders, Indian officials are coordinating efforts with Ukrainian authorities to run special trains amid intense fighting. At the border, stranded foreigners are facing long waiting periods amid sub-zero temperatures, and the Indian nationals have been advised to not travel directly to the border checkpoints without coordinating with Indian authorities.
- Once out of Ukraine, the Indian students are safely flying back to India, and the flight expenses are being covered by the Indian government.
- Several news agencies highlighted that Russian forces may renew their efforts to lay siege to Kyiv after failing to wrest control of the Ukrainian capital city from its forces. Photos shared by news agencies the Associated Press and Reuters clicked by US satellite company Maxar showed a huge Russian military convoy in Ivankiv, miles outside Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Ukrainian news agencies reported that air raid alarms have been sounded in Kyiv and residents were advised to remain sheltered.