1,700 Indian nationals moved out of conflict zone, INS Tarkash deployed for evacuation: Foreign Secretary

Around 1,700 to 2,000 Indian nationals have been moved out of the conflict zone in Sudan.

New Delhi, Apr 27: Around 1,700 to 2,000 Indian nationals have been moved out of the conflict zone in Sudan, where the situation remains highly volatile, even as a third Indian naval ship INS Tarkash has docked in the Port of Sudan to evacuate Indians as part of Operation Kaveri, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said at a special briefing today.

The Foreign Secretary said that “there are approximately 3,500 Indian nationals and about 1,000 odd Persons of Indian Origin in Sudan”.

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Elaborating on the volatile situation in Sudan, in northeast Africa, the Foreign Secretary said that since the fighting broke out between the two rival factions on April 15, several ceasefires were declared by both sides, with many of them not being honoured, and some honoured partially. The current 72-hour ceasefire “is holding by and large but there has been feedback of sporadic firing and fighting going on in some parts of Khartoum”, he said.

In the midst of this volatile ecosystem, the Indian Embassy in Khartoum along with the Ministry of External Affairs has been working to bring back the stranded Indians, he added.

“The ecosystem is of a highly volatile conflict zone situation, where pretty much it is very hard to access areas outside the Khartoum city,” he added.

Despite the conflict zone around Khartoum, India started looking at pathways, and decided on a land corridor of 850 km from Khartoum till the Port of Sudan, where the Indian Naval ships could dock and an airstrip on which the two C-130J aircraft could land.

The approximate journey time to traverse the 850 km can be between 12-18 hours, he said, “and add to that the complexity of diesel fuel for buses”.

He said due to India’s relentless challenges they were able to address these real logistical challenges and bring back a large number of Indians.

FS Kwatra said the Indian Mission in Khartoum worked day and night and they were able to arrange buses to mobilise Indians from the conflict areas.

When the first convoy left two embassy officials accompanied them to ensure there were no issues, made arrangements for stay and food for Indians, he added.

At the Port of Sudan the Indian nationals were provided full documentation as many were not in a position to carry documents with them when they left.

“As we speak, we have a situation that roughly 600-odd Indian nationals have arrived in India, or are on their way,” the FS said.

Giving a breakup, he said that 360 arrived in India by a charter Saudi Arabia flight, while another 246 were being flown to Maharashtra in a commissioned C-17 flight.

There are currently 495 Indians in Jeddah, while there are 320 in the Port of Sudan, and there are more Indians moving in buses from Khartoum to the Port of Sudan, he added.

On April 25 INS Sumedha brought out 278 nationals, while on two sorties of C130J, 121 and 135 people were brought out, on April 26, 296 people left on INS Teg, and 264 left on two sorties of C130J.

To a question, he said that around 42 Indian nationals crossed the border and moved to South Sudan for evacuation.

Asked if there had been requests for evacuation from other countries, he said there have been requests from other nationalities too and India is “willing to provide all assistance to everybody who approaches us subject to fulfilment of all procedures, especially as there is a transit country involved”, referring to Saudi Arabia as all the evacuees are being brought to Jeddah.

He said India has been working very closely with Saudi Arabia and its leadership, and expressed gratitude for the help. “They have been extremely helpful and cooperative and we are extremely grateful to them for that.”

Asked about the number of Indians still in Sudan, he said that the situation on ground very volatile and unpredictable, and India has been in touch with both the warring factions, SAF and RSF. “We have been in touch with both sides, our relationship has been such that we have good equation with both; our first priority is to bring the Indians to an area of greater safety in Khartoum and from there provide them transport assistance to Port of Sudan, which is 850 km away.”

He said that currently “there are a substantial number of buses moving from Khartoum to Port of Sudan”.

“The effort is to get every Indian out of harm’s way and into the Port of Sudan, and from there to Jeddah and back here. The objective and target is to get stranded Indians out of harm’s way as early as possible,” he added.