‘Take every Indian out of harm’s way’: Top diplomat on India’s priority in Sudan
About 3,400 Indian nationals had either registered online or were in touch with the embassy in Khartoum, and over 1,700 have been moved out of conflict zones.
More than 1,700 of about 3,400 Indian nationals in Sudan have been moved out of conflict zones and the government’s focus is on getting every citizen out of harm’s way as soon as possible, foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Thursday.
With some still caught up in highly volatile conflict zones and difficulties in accessing areas outside the capital city of Khartoum, the Indian side is ensuring that Indian nationals are quickly moved by road to Port Sudan, from where they are being ferried in warships and military aircraft to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
"Our objective and target is to take stranded Indians out of harm’s way as early as possible," Kwatra said at a media briefing on Operation Kaveri, the country’s effort to get its citizens out of Sudan following the start of a 72-hour ceasefire on Tuesday.
While some ceasefires announced by forces loyal to the Sudan Army chief, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his deputy-turned-rival, Gen Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who heads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), were only partially successful, the latest truce is 'holding by and large' but there have been reports of sporadic firing and fighting in some parts of Khartoum, he said.
"As a result of that, the situation on the ground remains highly volatile with...conflicting claims coming from both sides," Kwatra said.
About 3,400 Indian nationals had either registered online or were in touch with the embassy in Khartoum, and more than 1,700 of them have been moved out of conflict zones so far. More than 600 Indians have either arrived in India or are on their way back to the country.
A chartered flight brought back 360 Indians on Wednesday night, while another 246 are being flown to Maharashtra in a C-17 Globemaster heavy lift aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
A total of 495 Indians are currently in Jeddah, while another 320 are in Port Sudan. More Indians are being moved in buses from Khartoum to Port Sudan.
Two C-130J medium lift aircraft of the IAF stationed in Saudi Arabia and naval warships will make sorties across the Red Sea to take the Indians arriving in Port Sudan to Jeddah.
On Tuesday, the warship INS Sumedha took 278 Indians from Port Sudan to Jeddah while 256 more were transported by the C-130J aircraft. Another warship, INS Teg, ferried 297 Indians from Port Sudan to Jeddah, while the C-130J aircraft airlifted 264 more in two sorties.
Sudan is also home to close to 1,000 people of Indian origin, whose families have lived there for more than 100 years, and the Indian side stands ready to help them to move to safe areas, Kwatra said. India will also respond to requests from other countries to evacuate their nationals from Sudan, subject to the fulfilment of the procedures of Saudi Arabia, the transit country.
Kwatra referred to logistical challenges faced by the Indian side during the evacuation effort, such as overcoming a shortage of diesel for the buses being used to move Indians to Port Sudan, located 850 km from the capital Khartoum. He also highlighted the assistance rendered by Saudi Arabia, which has emerged as a key strategic partner of India in West Asia in recent years.
"We have been working very closely with the government and leadership of Saudi Arabia and they have been extremely helpful, supportive and cooperative in this endeavour. We are extremely grateful to them for that," he said, listing the creation of a control room in Jeddah and the positioning of military assets to bring back the stranded Indians.
By Rezaul H Laskar
Apr 27, 2023 02:20 PM IST