Warships on standby to evacuate Indians
The officials said that the MEA is also in touch with the Indian Air Force (IAF), which has conveyed how it can contribute and what assets can be deployed to bring back the stranded people.
India has kept three warships on standby to bring back thousands of Indians stuck in West Asian countries as New Delhi works towards implementing an evacuation plan that will also include special flights amid the coronavirus outbreak, officials said Wednesday.
These warships are INS Jalashwa and two other amphibious warships, the officials said. “The ministry of external affairs (MEA) is steering the plan. The navy is prepare,” one official said.
As reported by HT on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spelt out the ground rule for the evacuation — India’s blue collar workers stranded abroad will get the first seats in the special flights that will be run by the government to get them home.Students will be next, followed by everyone else, including those who were travelling for work, or pleasure.
The officials said that the MEA is also in touch with the Indian Air Force (IAF), which has conveyed how it can contribute and what assets can be deployed to bring back the stranded people. The officials said the IAF’s C-17, IL-76 and C-130J aircraft could be pressed into action but it would make more sense for Air India to send its aircraft as they are “better configured to carry passengers and cargo”. “Nothing has been finalised yet,” a second official said.
MEA officials refused to comment on the matter.
The three warships can accommodate around 1,500 people in all. The Jalashwa can bring back around 800 and the warships can together accommodate 700, the officials quoted above said.
“The warships can carry more people but social distancing norms will have to be followed during the proposed evacuation,” one said.
A navy spokesperson refused to comment on the development.
Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), additional director general, Centre for Air Power Studies, said, “The military has time and again shown that it has the capabilities to come to the aid of stranded diaspora. We saw that in Yemen recently and in Libya and Kuwait evacuations earlier. With the available capability, we can actually declare ourselves to be a regional HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) provider.”
The armed forces have played an important role in the fight against Covid-19, setting up quarantine centres, providing healthcare facilities and evacuating Indian nationals from other countries.