India Evacuates Diplomatic Staff In Challenging Situation, Embassy Closed

SRINAGAR: With 120 officials on board, an IAF C-16 Globemaster aircraft has finally touched base in Gujarat’s Jamnagar. The diplomatic staff flew from chaotic Kabul airport. Those evacuated included Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon.

The flight had been sent last night when the TV screens were flashing the unprecedented images of thousands of people chasing a US Air Force aircraft as it taxied down the runway. Not less than seven people died at the airport being managed, mostly by the US army. It took off from Kabul at around 7 am.

“In view of the prevailing circumstances, it has been decided that our Ambassador in Kabul and his Indian staff will move to India immediately,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a Tweet.

This is the second flight that evacuated Indian citizens from Afghanistan. The last flight had landed in Delhi on Sunday when Ashraf Ghani government silently surrendered and fled Kabul. The Air India flight AI244 carried 129 passengers.

The C-16 aircraft had taken off from Kabul amid high drama, reports appearing in the media said. It brought home the ambassador and his staff. There are plans to bring to Delhi “several hundred loyal Afghans” some of whom are understood to have moved to neighbouring countries for the time being, according to The Tribune. Sources told the newspaper that “the evacuation of the mission on Monday night just after midnight was enabled due to New Delhi’s newly established  back channels with Taliban.”

The newspaper reported: “The arrival and departure of a large number of military aircraft from western countries got bunched up as operations were suspended following gunfire near the airport leading to the Indian plane staying in Kabul more than warranted.”

India has closed its operations in Afghanistan. “With the virtual closure of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, India’s extensive outreach that once included four consulates has been terminated for now,” The Tribune reported. Now the MEA has introduced a new category of electronic visas to fast-track the applications of Afghans wanting to enter India.

Right now, envoys of Turkey, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Central Asian countries and China are operating from Kabul.

However, NDTV reported that two C-17 transport flew into Kabul on August 15 the diplomatic staff.

“The security situation in the intervening night of August 15-16 deteriorated sharply and no evacuations became possible then,” the website was told by the sources. “The Indian embassy was reportedly also under observation by the Taliban, and the high-security Green Zone – the heavily fortified district that houses most embassies and international organisations – was breached.”

Besides, NDTV reported that the Taliban had raided the Shahir Visa Agency, which processes visas for Afghans looking to travel to India.

“The first batch of 45 Indian personnel who were evacuated on the first IAF aircraft yesterday were initially stopped by Taliban sentries on their way to the airport,” the NDTV quoted sources saying. “The personal belongings of a few Indian staff members were taken away by the Taliban as they proceeded to the airport”

NDTV reported that the first Indian transport aircraft that left Kabul yesterday took off under “very challenging circumstances” given the chaos at Kabul airport. The remaining diplomatic staff and security contingent (ITBP) were unable to evacuate as access to the airport remained locked.

“An overnight conversation between the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister S Jaishankar may have helped in moving the Indian personnel to Kabul airport this morning,” the report said.


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