4,000 rescued from Yemen: Why India should be proud of Operation Rahat

Gaurav C Sawant
Gaurav C SawantApr 08, 2015 | 11:32

4,000 rescued from Yemen: Why India should be proud of Operation Rahat

By midnight tonight India would have evacuated approximately 4,000 Indian nationals from strife torn Yemen in one of the most complex evacuation operations. Some rescued literally from the jaws of death. On the penultimate day of Operation Rahat, Indian aircraft flew into war torn Sana'a and flew out with 600 people desperate to fly out to safety.

India has so far rescued 250 foreign nationals from 26 different nationalities. The German ambassador Michael Steiner thanked government of India for its efforts in evacuating German nationals trapped in Yemen.


Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson for the ministry of external affairs put out a list of 26 countries from Bangladesh to United States that had requested India to help evacuate its nationals.  

Both the US and France not only have a blue water navy and expeditionary forces, but also the ability to carry out operations, yet as Syed Akbaruddin told Headlines Today, it is not just the intent and capabilities but also the diplomatic space to manoeuvre in such a complex situation that India has so far succeeded in the diplomatic tightrope walk.  India has been the only country to launch an operation of this scale and size to rescue its nationals and other foreign nationals, including some Pakistanis from Yemen.

"Humanity knows no borders. We will be happy to help all those who want our help if it is possible,'' Akbaruddin told Headlines Today.  

Minister of state VK Singh with Tahseen Bahader, vice-principal of Mahatma Gandhi International School Aden, who coordinated the evacuation. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally spoke to the King Salman of Saudi Arabia to seek a safe passage for Indian nationals and evacuation effort. Saudi Arabia has enforced a no fly zone over Yemen's air space in the ongoing conflict with Shia-Houthis jockeying for control. With Prime Minister's Office monitoring operations there has been seamless cooperation between various arms of the state including ministries of external affairs, defence, shipping, railways, navy, IAF, Air India and various state governments to provide relief to those in distress.  The prime minister also tweeted about this:


Prime minister Modi also deputed General VK Singh, minister of state, external affairs and former chief of the army staff to Sana'a and Djibuti to take on the spot decisions and cut through the red tape.

"We are fortunate to have a minister who has the experience and the ability to lead from the front on ground. He is in Sana'a today. This is his second trip to Sana'a," Syed Akbaruddin, joint secretary in the external publicity division of MEA added.

With General VK Singh on ground zero coordination between various arms of the government and cutting through the red tape to speedy evacuation, at times in the line of fire, became easy. General VK Singh has been camping in Djibuiti since March 31. He flew into Sana'a twice for a ground assessment and personal supervision of evacuation operations.   

Diplomats in the ministry of external affairs carried out round the clock effort coordinating with forces in Saudi Arabia and Yemen to seek trouble free entry and exit for Indian aircraft and ships. "India has the ability to negotiate the difficulties on ground and diplomatically engage all forces at play. We have a channel of communication open with both sides and have been able to go and come out of the conflict zone. Several other major powers do not have that luxury and have been dependent on us to rescue their nationals too,'' sources said.  


The evacuation operation comes to an end on April 8, 2015 evening. "By then all those who want to return would have been evacuated. Some 200-300 Indian nationals want to stay behind. We have persuaded them but they insist they will survive," sources added. 

The government will review the situation after the last flight takes off from Sana'a tomorrow whether another window is needed to rescue more people. But there has been a surge in evacuation efforts in the past 24 hours. 574 people were evacuated on board three Air India flights and another 479 were rescued on board INS Mumbai ex Al Hudaydah.

The Indian Navy has deployed three ships - INS Mumbai a Delhi class destroyer, INS Tarkash, a Talwar class Stealth frigate and INS Sumitra, a Saryu class Offshore Patrol Vessel in these evacuation operations. Those trapped in smaller places were brought by civil boats to these ships for their onward journey to safety. The shipping ministry also deputed Karnavati and Coral to bridge the gap in operations. "Several people were brought by boats in Aden to the ship when the Indian Navy ships could not enter port," a naval officer coordinating operations said. 

This is the fourth evacuation operation carried out by the Narendra Modi government after being elected to power in May 2014.  

In January 2015, 1,000 Indian nationals, mostly students were evacuated from Ukraine after the ministry of external affairs made arrangements to get them to Kiev. In July 2014: 4,500 Indians including 750 nurses were evacuated from Libya.  

In end June-early July 2014 the national security advisor Ajit Doval flew into the middle east and successfully negotiated the release of 175 Indians including 46 nurses from the strife torn country Iraq. The government was credited with having our people released in extremely difficult circumstances in a very complex war zone. India has successfully carried out long drawn and difficult evacuation operations including operation Safe homecoming in 2011 when 18,000 people were evacuated and an air and sea bridge formed by Indian Navy and Air India to rescue people from Libya.  

Operation Sukoon in 2006 was a massive operation to rescue people from the conflict in Lebanon.

Last updated: April 08, 2015 | 11:32
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