No Air India flights, IAF begins to evacuate stranded Indians | India News

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NEW DELHI: Describing the security situation in Kabul as having deteriorated significantly, and one changing rapidly, the Centre on Monday said it would stand by Afghans, who had been India’s partners in the promotion of “mutual developmental, educational and people-to-people endeavours’’.
The statement is important keeping in mind a spurt in the number of Afghans queuing up in the past few weeks for Indian visas, fearing the worst from a vengeful Taliban, and is in addition to India’s promise to look out for Hindu and Sikh minorities who might want to seek refuge here.
While the Centre didn’t confirm the number of Indians in Afghanistan citing security reasons, it is believed there were still a few hundred Indian nationals, other than security personnel, in Kabul till Monday evening.
India deployed two IAF heavy-lift military aircraft on Sunday night to evacuate its nationals. The first C-17 Globemaster-III aircraft landed at Kabul at 11 pm on Sunday, picked up some passengers, including diplomatic staff, and then returned to India on Monday morning. The second C-17 was likely to land in Delhi late on Monday night, with sources saying more such sorties are being planned. Both the external affairs and defence ministries, however, were tight-lipped about the evacuation plans, apparently because of security reasons.
The government said in a statement it’s in touch with Indian nationals who wish to return and also representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities. “We will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan,’’ said the foreign ministry.
India also said commercial operations from Kabul airport had been suspended on Monday and that this had forced a pause in the repatriation efforts. “We are awaiting the resumption of flights to restart the process,” it said. The statement suggests that the government is not sure if a breakneck military evacuation can be carried out. Sources said there was too much uncertainty in Kabul for such efforts though no option is ruled out. Afghanistan was reported to have “released to the military’’ its airspace forcing commercial airlines to divert their flights.
The Centre’s statement also suggests it is not considering shutting down the embassy even temporarily. Afghan nationals who have helped India with its developmental efforts will most likely see any such step as a betrayal. The government still has the option of scaling down diplomatic presence or running the embassy through local employees for a while. A decision is expected in the next few days.
The government said it 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,’’ said the statement.
“The situation in Afghanistan is being monitored on a constant basis at high levels. The government will take all steps to ensure the safety and security of Indian nationals and our interests in Afghanistan,” it added.

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