Special charter flight from Kabul to New Delhi to evacuate more than 100 people

A few Indian nationals are also expected to be in the group being evacuated from the Afghan capital, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity
Airport staff prepare to transport a shipment of Covid-19 vaccines at the Kabul airport on December 8, 2021. (AFP)
Airport staff prepare to transport a shipment of Covid-19 vaccines at the Kabul airport on December 8, 2021. (AFP)
Updated on Dec 10, 2021 12:19 PM IST
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A special charter flight from Kabul to New Delhi on Friday will evacuate more than 100 people, most of them Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, and take back Afghan nationals stranded in India and medical supplies.

A few Indian nationals are also expected to be in the group being evacuated from Kabul, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

Indian authorities and the Afghan embassy in New Delhi worked discreetly over the past few weeks to arrange the charter flight.

A video posted on social media showed a Sikh man, who was among the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus being evacuated, saying that they were taking the flight after waiting for almost three months. The man said 102 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus were being evacuated to New Delhi.

The group, which includes women and children, will bring with it three Guru Granth Sahibs and Hindu religious texts from the ancient Asamai Mandir in Kabul.

The charter flight will take back close to 90 Afghan nationals. Most of them had come to India for medical treatment and were stranded after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

It is also expected to carry medical supplies that are part of the humanitarian aid offered by India to Afghanistan, the people said.

There was no official word on the development from the Indian side.

The last commercial flight from the Indian side on the Kabul-Delhi route was operated by Air India on August 15, the day Kabul fell to the Taliban. Hundreds of Indian nationals, including diplomats and security personnel, were evacuated on special Indian Air Force flights during August.

India also withdrew its ambassador and all other staff from the mission in Kabul – effectively closing the embassy for the second time since 1996.

However, scores of Indian nationals were still in Afghanistan after all evacuation flights were stopped because of security concerns, which were heightened after the devastating suicide attack at the Kabul airport on August 26 that killed more than 180 people.

The people cited above said many of these Indians subsequently left Afghanistan via land routes and travelled to Iran and Central Asian states. It is believed that a little more than a dozen Indians were stranded in Afghanistan and wanted to come back.

More charter flights could be arranged to bring back people from Kabul and send back hundreds of Afghans still stranded in India, the people said.

Four special flights were recently arranged to take Afghan nationals stranded in India to Kabul via Tehran, but this arrangement was subsequently suspended as the cost was too high. Each traveller paid almost $850 for the trip - and most of the Afghans couldn’t afford the fare.

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Saturday, June 25, 2022