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India Ensured Safe Evacuation of 22,500 Indians From Ukraine Under 'Operation Ganga': EAM Dr. Jaishankar

Source : Asian News International (ANI)

India Ensured Safe Evacuation of 22,500 Indians From Ukraine Under 'Operation Ganga': Jaishankar
External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar in Rajya Sabha

New Delhi:
Despite challenges posed by a serious ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, India ensured the safe return of 22,500 citizens to their homes under 'Operation Ganga', External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar told Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

Speaking about the situation in Ukraine and the implications that it has had for India, including for our national residents there, Jaishankar further said 150 foreign nationals of 18 countries were also evacuated from conflict zones and brought to India in line with India's principle of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam'.

Among the foreign nationals evacuated are India's immediate neighbours like Bangladesh and Nepal, said the Minister, adding, "many of the Ukrainian nationals that are family members of Indian nationals have also been evacuated, and we also provided free passage to Ukraine nationals from India to Poland in our evacuation flights."

Under 'Operation Ganga', Jaishankar said, 90 flights have been operated, out of which 76 were civilian flights and 14 were Indian Air-force flights.

"The evacuation flights were from Romania, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. While Indian Air-Force rose to the occasion, most of the private airlines, that includes Air India, Air India Express, Indigo, Spice Jet, Vistara, Go-Air and Air Asia, also participated enthusiastically."

During this period, the Minister stated, Prime Minister himself spoke to Presidents of Russia and Ukraine on multiple occasions. "He (PM) specifically took up the issue of safe evacuation of Indian nationals, especially from Kharkiv and Sumy. PM also spoke to the Prime Ministers of Romania, Slovak Republic, Hungary and President of Poland to seek their support for facilitation of entry of Indian nationals to their countries."

I was in constant touch with my counterparts from Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova for similar reasons, said the Minister.

He also said that Foreign Secretary maintained contact with the Ambassadors of Ukraine and Russia in New Delhi, while our Ambassadors in Kyiv and Moscow followed up in their respective capitals.

Prime Minister deputed four Union Ministers as Special Envoys to Romania, Hungary, Slovak Republic and Poland to facilitate Operation Ganga.

This included Jyotiraditya Scindia to Romania, Kiren Rijiju to the Slovak Republic, Hardeep Singh Puri to Hungary and Gen (Retd.) and VK Singh to Poland. Their personal supervision of the evacuation processes made a substantial difference in the ease of border crossing and the care taken of our citizens thereafter.

Jaishankar said a tense situation between Russia and Ukraine erupted into conflict on February 24 and the root causes for this are complex, going back to a range of issues including the security architecture, political governance and inter-state politics.

What is pertinent to note is that the hostilities placed the Indian community of 20,000 plus in direct danger, said the Foreign Affairs Minister.

"Even while we were participating in the global deliberation of this evolving situation in the UN Security Council, the pressing challenge was to safeguard our citizens and ensure that they were not in harm's way," said the Minister.

"At the direction of the Prime Minister, we launched Operation Ganga, thereby undertaking one of the most challenging evacuation exercises during an ongoing conflict situation," he added.

The Minister said, "our community was dispersed across Ukraine, posing its own logistical challenges".

"The exercise was undertaken at a time when military actions including airstrikes and shelling were underway. It involved movement in a war-torn situation in a large country, at times over a

1,000 km. And it required exiting borders clogged by an estimated 2.6 million refugees."

"The entire exercise involved a whole of Government approach with Prime Minister himself chairing review meetings, almost on a daily basis. At the MEA, we monitored the evacuation operations on a 24x7 basis as well," said Jaishankar.

The Minister said that as tensions increased, the Embassy of India in Ukraine had started a registration drive for Indian nationals in January 2022. As a result, around 20,000 Indian nationals registered with our Embassy in Kyiv, he added.

"Most of the Indian nationals were students who were pursuing medical studies in Ukrainian universities dispersed throughout the country. More than half of the students were in Universities in Eastern Ukraine that borders Russia and has been the epicentre of the conflict so far," said the Minister.

The students hailed from 35 States and UTs of India with more than 1,000 students each from the States of Kerala, UP, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bihar and Rajasthan, informed Jaishankar.

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