Over 20,000 Indian citizens were caught amidst a war after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops inside the Ukrainian border. A majority of the Indians are medical students who had chosen the East European country for affordable medical education. Just when the tensions started getting out of hand, the Indian government had announced all Indian nationals to leave the country immediately. However, some could not return immediately because of soaring prices and a hope that the disagreements would not transform into a war.
However, on February 24, President Putin unleashed terror by ordering his troops in the neighbouring country of Ukraine. The Indian government led by Prime Minister Modi immediately sprung to action and launched Operation Ganga to bring stranded Indians home. However, this is not the first time the government has stood by its stranded Indian citizens.
Several Evacuation Operations By The Government
After the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and the international airspace halted indefinitely due to countries shutting down borders for fear of the pandemic, the Indian government launched Vande Bharat Mission on May 7, 2020. The mission was one of the largest ever civilian evacuations in any country during peacetime. Since 2020, the government has evacuated 1.8 million Indians from countries across the globe in 15 phased manners. Back then, the government-backed Air India exclusively carried out the first three phases by 11,523 in-bound flights. Other airline carriers were roped in the fourth phase, and the government is currently working on the 16th phase.
After Vande Bharat Mission, the Kuwait Airlift remains the second-largest airlifted evacuation operation by the Indian government, which had deployed Air India and several other carriers to bring back 1,75,000 Indians to safety. The scale of the evacuation was so massive that Air India was credited with a Guinness Book Record for carrying out the evacuation of the highest number of people in a civilian flight. A Bollywood movie was also made on the operation.
In 2011, a civil war broke out in Libya between Colonel Muammar Gadaffi and rebel forces who wanted to oust the government. The government commenced Operation Safe Homecoming to rescue more than 15,000 Indians stuck in Libya. As protests intensified in the African country, India sent nine Air India flights to Libya, Egypt and Malta, while the Indian Navy rescued several thousand people.
In March 2015, the Yemeni government had conducted a military operation against the Houthi rebels. A Saudi-led coalition of Arab states carried out airstrikes against Houthis and deployed a small ground force to wipe them out. Of 5,600 people evacuated, 2,900 Indians were evacuated by 18 special flights from Sana'a and 1,670 Indians by Indian navy ships from four ports in Yemen. A total of 960 foreign nationals from 26 countries were also rescued in the joint air-sea rescue mission.
In 2006, when an armed conflict broke about between Israel and Lebanon, the government launched Operation Sukoon to bring back not only Indian nationals but also the Sri Lankans and Nepalese citizens to safety. That operation is famously known as the 'Beirut Sealift' and is hailed as the largest-ever evacuation after the Dunkirk evacuation.
In war, India has also carried out rescue operations in times of natural calamities. For instance, Operation Maitri was initiated in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake in April 2015. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed over 8,000 people and is the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since 1934. In the joint operation by the Indian Armed Forces and the government, 5000 Indians were brought back to India in military and civil planes.
How Are Other World Leaders Evacuating Their Citizens?
Despite the untiring efforts of the government to bring back Indians from Ukraine now, several people on social media are criticizing the government for a delay in the evacuation process. To counter that, government sources shared the steps taken by the Indian government and its relentless pursuit to bring home stranded Indians. While Russian ally and one of the wealthiest countries globally, China, has postponed its evacuation process, India's Operation Ganga continues to be functional. The Economic Times reported that the Chinese officials had issued no travel advisories or support mechanisms. On the other hand, India has started helpline numbers countries neighbouring Ukraine to help stranded Indians reach the government officials fly back to safety in India.
The United States of America (USA) had also announced that it would not evacuate its citizens who were facing a long waiting time at the Ukrainian border. The country had also ordered its citizens to carry food items for two days to the Ukrainian borders. The United Kingdom had already announced that it would not provide extra support to its citizens stranded at the Ukrainian border. In contrast, India has increased the repatriation flights on a war footing.
Similarly, the German embassy has closed its office in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv while the Indian embassy is still functional. Moreover, the Indian government has also sent four of its Union Ministers as special envoys to coordinate the evacuation efforts in the war-ridden country. Therefore, it is imperative to realize that even though there might be loopholes in the political structure, the Indian government leaves no stones unturned to bring back the stranded Indians. Its efforts are one of the best amongst leading countries.