Operation Kaveri was the most dangerous, particularly complicated: EAM

Operation Kaveri was the most dangerous, and particularly complicated, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said today.

New Delhi/Mysuru, May 7: Of all the evacuation operations carried out by India since 2014, Operation Kaveri was the most dangerous, and particularly complicated, as the Indian Embassy staff in Khartoum put their lives at risk in rescuing the nearly 4,000 people in violence-hit Sudan, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said today.

In a talk on the Modi government’s foreign policy in Mysuru, the EAM said that Operation Kaveri “was a particularly complicated operation”, and the MEA was hesitant to speak about it much in public as they were “actually genuinely worried that if we highlighted the predicament in which our people were, we would be putting them in danger”.

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“In the case of Operation Kaveri we’ve brought back almost 4,000 people and broadly about 11-12 percent were inhabitants of Karnataka. This was done using the Air Force, there were 17 flights, there were five sorties by ships.”
“But having seen a series of these operations, from 2015 when we did the Yemen operation, Operation Rahat, truly this was the most dangerous operation.”

“This was an operation where people put their lives at risk, where… There were quite a few embassies in Khartoum, when the fighting started, most of the embassies left very quickly. Our embassy stayed, because there were Indians in Khartoum,” he said.
EAM said that despite all the Indians having left, the embassy continued in Khartoum “because my ambassador and his team had the responsibility – ‘They said ‘No there are still people stuck in some places’. And finally, when on the day when the ceasefire broke down, I had to order them, saying you are putting your lives at risk, please relocate within Sudan.”

Referring to the daring rescue by an IAF plane of 121 evacuees, including family members of the Indian Embassy from the Wadi Seidna military airbase, 40 km from Khartoum, the EAM said:

“You actually had an Indian Air Force plane land at a, not an unprepared airstrip, but an airstrip not regularly functional, in very poor condition, where a plane previously coming in had been shot at, and hit, and yet these people took the risk of landing there, with very little help from the… I think the air traffic controller was non-existent, I think if my understanding is right.”

“So they landed there using old fashioned skills, taking a big chance. And to me, the courage shown by the people landing was only matched by the embassy staff on the ground who had rounded up the people and taken them there through very difficult circumstances, so that they could be very quickly loaded on the plane; and the embassy people came back.”

He said that the “people need to trust the government, they need to understand that this is a government which has systems in place, which has a commitment to its citizens abroad”.

Elaborating on the challenges faced during Operation Kaveri, he said that the embassy team had to “hire buses, get petrol in the black market, as fuel was very difficult, and had to negotiate check points.”

“Some of you would have seen stories in the newspaper of, what the people who came out were speaking about being threatened, about being robbed, about being assaulted, whatever they went through those who stayed behind took much more than that, and yet it was their job to keep it running.”
The embassy hired 60-70 buses for the evacuation, he said.

“The last lot of people traversed through the length of Sudan to finally reach the Port of Sudan, through a very long route because they were avoiding the fighting. And we had another team, from Nigeria, come to Chad and extricate people from the western side of Sudan.”
EAM said when the fighting broke out in Sudan he was travelling abroad and was in Africa. PM Modi had contacted him, and wanted to confirm that all the systems were in place for the evacuation process.