By Harihar Swarup
As a grim situation unfolds in Afghanistan, particularly in Kabul, post the withdrawal of foreign troops, the world stares at a humanitarian crisis. Countries with their citizens stranded in Afghanistan are burning the midnight oil to ensure their safe evacuation. Since August 16, over 800 Indians have been evacuated back under “Operation Devi Shakti”. Indian Armed Forces are engaged in evacuating not just Indians but also foreign nationals.
With a sizable Indian population still stuck inside Afghanistan and many Afghan Hindus and Sikhs seeking asylum in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi began the rescue and evacuation operation by calling a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security. The Centre also took into confidence all political parties by calling an all-party meeting on the Afghanistan situation. With the situation unfolding fast in Afghanistan, the Centre is keeping a close eye even as the relief and rescue operation continues in top gear.
August 26 was the day when the worst fears of the world came true as a massive terrorist strike at the Kabul airport claimed more than 170 lives, including of US soldiers. The future of Afghanistan looked bleaker. At this crucial juncture, when India has a crucial role to play in its neighbour Afghanistan, PM Modi has been leading from the front, be it the rescue and evacuation of our citizens, providing relief and aid to the citizens of the war-torn country or for rebuilding Afghanistan. India has always enjoyed close ties with Afghanistan and has been actively engaged in its rebuilding and development.
India under the leadership of PM Modi has a stellar record of evacuating its citizens and efficiently carrying out rescue and relief operations overseas. India believes in “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (the world is one family) and all its humanitarian missions have been guided by this principle. In Afghanistan, too, India led from the front in evacuating citizens from India and across the globe.
In early 2020, when the Covid-19 outbreak shook the entire world and left people stranded, India launched the “Vande Bharat Mission”. By July end last year, India had operated over 88,000 flights across the world, taking every health precaution and following the WHO guidelines. Over 100 nations were covered under the Vande Bharat Mission and around 70 lakh Indians were brought home. And that is not all, several Indians were also evacuated from Wuhan, the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak.
There are extraordinary stories of evacuation and rescue of Indians since 2014 and all of them have been carried out under the direct supervision of PM Modi. Who can forget “Operation Sankat Mochan” of June-July 2014 in which 46 Indian nurses were rescued from a Tikrit hospital from the clutches of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in war-ravaged Iraq? It was a big diplomatic win for India.
In April 2015, the Indian Navy and Air Force became the saviours of 4,600-plus Indians and over 950 nationals of 41 countries as India carried out “Operation Raahat” to evacuate its citizens after the Yemen crisis following the military intervention by Saudi Arabia. Simultaneous rescue operations from the port of Aden by the Indian Navy, Air Force and Air India from Sanaa were a follow up to the successful Indian diplomatic intervention. Similarly, in March 2016, India carried out the successful evacuation of 250 Indians following multiple bombings at Brussels airport in Belgium.
There are several other stories of India’s grit and successful diplomatic interventions during crises. Be it the rescue of hundreds of Indian students from Ukraine during the pandemic or the evacuation of Indians from Iraq and Syria, the Modi government has been resolute while dealing with the safety and security of its citizens.
The Indian government has shown the world how to swiftly respond to crises when its citizens are stranded abroad. Today, a special team of over 20 officials under the Ministry of External Affairs is coordinating and executing a round-the-clock evacuation of not just Indians but also nationals of other countries from Afghanistan.
The Afghan Sikhs and other nationals who have been evacuated are full of praise for the Indian government for saving them. One important highlight of the rescue mission has been the evacuation of three of the last six “Swaroops” of the Sikh holy scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji, considered as the “Living Guru”, from the Kabul airport. They were received by Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in Delhi.
The Modi government has reiterated that India firmly stands behind the Afghans during this crisis and will make every effort to ensure the fast rehabilitation and reconstruction of the war-torn nation. India has been a major partner in Afghanistan’s development and reconstruction. Shining examples of it are the construction of the Afghan Parliament and its big dams and highways.
The successive successful evacuations of Indians from crises across the globe in the past seven years have given confidence to our citizens that today we have a strong government and a global leader who knows how to save its people and safeguard their interests. The Modi government has the political will and the diplomatic acumen to deal with such crises and act as a saviour not just for the Indians but for citizens of all nationalities. (IPA Service)