Evacuation from Afghanistan: India brings back 392 people including 2 Afghan lawmakers
New Delhi: India on Sunday brought back 392 people, including two Afghan lawmakers, in three different flights as part of the mission to evacuate its nationals and Afghan partners from Kabul in the backdrop of increasing hostilities by the Taliban and deteriorating security situation in the city after it fell to the militant outfit a week back.
A total of 168 people, including 107 Indians and 23 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, were flown from Kabul to Hindon airbase near Delhi in a C-17 heavy-lift military transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Another group of 87 Indians and two Nepalese nationals were brought back in a special Air India flight from Dushanbe, a day after they were evacuated to the Tajikistan capital in an IAF 130J transport aircraft, officials said.
Separately, 135 Indians, who were earlier evacuated from Kabul to Doha in the last few days by the US and NATO aircraft, were flown back from the Qatari capital city to Delhi on a special flight, they said.
The group of 168 people, who were evacuated from Kabul, included Afghan lawmakers Anarkali Honaryar and Narender Singh Khalsa and their families, people familiar with the evacuation mission said.
“India is our second home. Even if we are Afghans and live in that country, people often call us Hindustanis. I thank India for extending its helping hand,” Khalsa told reporters at the Hindon airbase near Delhi.
“I am feeling like crying. Everything is finished. It is a very difficult and painful decision to leave the country. We have not seen such a situation. Everything has been snatched away. It’s all over,” a visibly despondent Khalsa said when asked about the situation in Afghanistan.
With Sunday’s evacuation, the number of people evacuated by India from Kabul reached around 590 since last Monday.
Taking to Twitter, Farid Mamundzay, Afghanistan’s ambassador to India, thanked Indian friends for their messages of support.
“I appreciate the kind words of sympathy and support messages from all Indian friends and the diplomatic missions in New Delhi over the suffering of Afghans in the past few weeks, particularly the last 7-8 days.
“The avoidable suffering of Afghanistan is man-made and at a scale beyond all civilized contemplation. Afghanistan is going through a difficult time, and only good leadership, compassionate attitude and international support to the Afghan people would somewhat bring an end to these miseries,” he tweeted.
India carried out the evacuation missions in coordination with the US and several other friendly countries.
It is learnt that a small group of Indian officials is coordinating the evacuation mission at the Kabul airport and another batch of Indians is expected to be brought back from the Afghan capital on Monday.
However, it will depend on whether a sizeable number of Indians, as well as Indian-origin people, manage to reach the airport.
People familiar with the situation in Kabul said Afghan nationals who are having Indian visas are facing increasing scrutiny from the Taliban.
“Evacuation continues! IAF special repatriation flight with 168 passengers on board, including 107 Indian nationals, is on its way to Delhi from Kabul,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted hours before the plane landed at Hindon.
It is learnt that the Indians evacuated to Doha from Kabul were employees of a number of foreign companies that were operating in Afghanistan.
“Bringing Indians home from Afghanistan! AI 1956 carrying 87 Indians departs from Tajikistan for New Delhi. Two Nepalese nationals also evacuated.
“Assisted and supported by our Embassy @IndEmbDushanbe. More evacuation flights to follow,” Bagchi tweeted at around 1:20 AM.
Two days after the Taliban seized control of Kabul, India evacuated 200 people including the Indian envoy and other staffers of its embassy in Kabul in two C-17 heavy-lift transport aircraft of the IAF.
The first evacuation flight brought back over 40 people, mostly staffers at the Indian embassy, on Monday last.
The second C-17 aircraft evacuated around 150 people including Indian diplomats, officials, security personnel and some stranded Indians from Kabul on Tuesday.
The Taliban swept across Afghanistan this month, seizing control of almost all key towns and cities including Kabul in the backdrop of the withdrawal of the US forces.
Following the evacuation, the MEA said the focus now would be to ensure the safe return of all Indian nationals from the Afghan capital.
The MEA said the immediate priority for the government is to obtain accurate information about all Indian nationals currently staying in Afghanistan.
It also requested the Indians as well as their employers to urgently share the relevant details with the special Afghanistan cell that was set up on August 16.
Sources said the cell received more than 2,000 phone calls and answered over 6,000 WhatsApp queries during the first five days of its operation.
The cell answered more than 1200 e-mails during the period.
According to a rough estimate last week, the number of Indians stranded in Afghanistan could be around 400 and India has been looking at ways to evacuate them including by coordinating with the US and other friendly countries.