Lakhs of Indians stuck Gulf nation due to the Coronavirus pandemic are likely to be evacuated after May 3. The logistics of the massive operation are being worked upon.
The Indian Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) are getting ready to evacuate Indians who are stuck in the Gulf countries, after May 3. The Indian missions in the Gulf region have opened registration for those Indians who need to return to India. “The evacuation plans, as well as the dates, are in the process of being firmed up. Nothing is confirmed yet. However, once the registration by the Indians in these countries is completed then the numbers which need to be evacuated will be clear,” said a top diplomat on condition of anonymity.
“This evacuation will perhaps be the largest ever. It could be at least five lakh… which is going to be a huge number to be evacuated by India. The largest ever so far was around a lakh a few years ago. Those being evacuated are the workers who have lost their jobs in these countries due to lockdown, or their work permits have expired. There are those who are also very keen to just come back to India. This also includes the COVID-19 positive cases, too,” said the diplomat.
Most of the people being evacuated from the Gulf countries belong to the South and the flights, or the ship will all head there straight and they will be quarantined for the mandatory 14-day period. “The government of Kerala has received several representations from various groups in the Gulf countries who are keen to return. Enough facilities have been set up to take in these people who are expected to return.”
Evacuation of Indians from foreign countries in the past
The largest-ever evacuation was in 1990 during the first Gulf war – between Iraq and Kuwait when almost 1.7 lakh people were evacuated.
Following the destruction due to 2004 Tsunami, India sent the Indian Navy to get the Indians and other nationals who needed help.
This was followed by ‘Operation Sukoon’ in Lebanon in 2006.
Why the Indian Navy, Indian Air Force?
The Indian Navy is getting ready to go once again to evacuate Indians from the Gulf countries.
The Indian Navy has an experience of carrying out very complex evacuations as well as HADR operations.
The Indian Navy has been tagged as the ‘first responder’ and carried humanitarian aids to countries hit by natural calamities like Sri Lanka or to Mozambique.
The Indian Air Force has been evacuating a large number of Indians from Wuhan in China, Iran and Italy, and is now preparing its American Transport aircraft including C-130s and C-17 for the latest mission. These aircraft will be pressed into service to evacuate Indians from the Gulf countries when the government decides.
According to sources, besides the Navy and the Air Force, even the national carrier Air India will be sent to pick up Indian people from these countries as it has the “experience to carry out the evacuations of large numbers.”
How will the evacuation be carried out?
Will the flights go to UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain directly or will there be a central point where all are gathered and airlifted? “These logistics are being worked out and there will be more clarity once the Indians in these countries register with the embassy.