Union Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar on Tuesday said that the evacuation of Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Rudrendra Tandon, and the Embassy staff from Kabul was a “difficult and complicated exercise”. The statement came hours after an Indian Air Force plane brought back the staff members from the conflict-torn country.
In a tweet, Jaishankar also thanked all those whose cooperation made the evacuation possible.
The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan as it captured the country’s capital, Kabul, on Sunday, bringing an end to a 20-year-long war. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country. The Taliban had made rapid advances in the country, taking control of key cities amid a withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
The airspace over Afghanistan was closed on Monday afternoon after thousands fearful of Taliban rule desperately thronged the airport in an attempt to flee the war-torn country. At least five people were reportedly killed amid the chaos at the Kabul airport. Some videos showed horrifying images of at least two people who tried to escape Kabul by clinging to a plane fall after takeoff.
India had sent two aircraft on Sunday to evacuate its citizens. The first aircraft with 45 Indian citizens left Kabul the next day, amid chaos at the airport, reported NDTV. The remaining staff members were unable to leave as the route to the airport was closed.
Jaishankar had on Monday night spoken to America’s Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and discussed the need to restore airport operations in Kabul. The remaining members, over 120, including Tandon, landed at the Hindon air force station in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad on Tuesday.
After this, the Ministry of External Affairs said the evacuation exercise of staff members was completed in two phases.
The ministry noted that many Indian citizens were still in Afghanistan. “Our immediate priority is to obtain accurate information about all Indian nationals currently in Afghanistan,” the statement said. “They and /or their employers are requested to urgently share the relevant details with MEA’s Special Afghanistan Cell.”
The details can be shared on phone numbers +91-11-49016783, +91-11-49016784, +91-11-49016785, on WhatsApp number +91-8010611290, or through email at SituationRoom@mea.gov.in.
The ministry added that the main challenge was the shutting down of Afghanistan’s airspace. “Government of India is committed to the safe return of all Indian nationals and will institute flight arrangements once Kabul airport is open for commercial operations,” it added.
Meanwhile, Jaishankar said that 21 Indian citizens were evacuated to Paris and thanked Jean-Yves Le Drian, the country’s foreign minister, for the assistance.
On Monday, the Union Ministry of External Affairs had said that the Indian government will help members of the Hindu and Sikh communities from Afghanistan who want to come to India.