Over 200 Indians Still Stuck in Kabul as Centre Manages to Bring Back over 250 Safely to Delhi
By: Sashwata Saha
An Indian Air Force aircraft arrived in New Delhi on Monday from Kabul with some 45 Indians, including the embassy staff posted there, the foreign ministry told the press. This is the second such flight arranged after reports of over 500 Indian nationals being marooned in Afghanistan capital Kabul began circulating in the media on Sunday morning, leading to immense political pressure on the Centre to mount rescue efforts.
The first flight, which was arranged late on Sunday night after American forces relaxed their barricade around the airport, had carried 129 people back home safely to New Delhi.
The stranded Indian citizens include Foreign Ministry officials, paramilitary personnel tasked with their security and civilians who held jobs in the country or were entrepreneurs in Kabul. According to a CNN report, around half of this number had been sheltering inside a gurdwara since Sunday evening.
Among the stranded are nearly 100 personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), entrusted by the Army High Command with the protection of Indian subjects during the chaos of this transition. The Indian aircraft, which took back the first 45 citizens, had been stationed at the Kabul airport for hours, but officials had trouble as to how they could be safely taken there. However, India has been able to evacuate its second batch of diplomats this morning. After more than 24 hours of negotiations to use the airstrip, an Indian Air Force C-17 heavy-lift aircraft brought back 120 diplomats, security personnel, journalists and other officials this morning.
The Taliban has enforced a curfew on all movements in the city.
The Afghan airspace had been closed after thousands of desperate people overran the Kabul airport in an attempt to flee. At least 25 people were killed at the Kabul airport, but it remained unclear whether the cause was stampede or firing by Taliban fighters trying to enforce the curfew. Some had even tried to hang on to the wheels as the planes took off. Videos show at least two such stowaways falling to their deaths.
The Cabinet Secretary is meeting with Foreign Ministry officials to work out the evacuation plan, which is already in place, in detail, sources told NDTV.
Meanwhile, the Opposition is questioning why the Indian embassy staff were not evacuated in the last three-four days when the situation on the ground was changing fast, sources have said. The missions of other nations in the war-torn country had begun evacuation back when the Taliban started taking city after city before encircling Kabul and entering the city on Sunday.
The Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority asked all transit aircraft to reroute, adding any transit through Kabul airspace would be uncontrolled, Reuters reported. Kabul's flight information region covers all of Afghanistan.
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