21/04/2015 …. …. Following is the text of the External Affairs Minister and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj’s Suo-Motu Statement in Lok Sabha on “Recent Developments in the Republic of Yemen and Efforts Made for Safe Evacuation of Indian Nationals from There”
Hon’ble Madam Speaker,
I rise to make a statement on the “recent developments in the Republic of Yemen and efforts made for the safe evacuation of Indian nationals from there”.
I am glad to inform this August House that operation “Raahat” conducted for the evacuation of Indian nationals from war-torn Yemen has been a resounding success, well-acknowledged by the international community. We not only managed to safely evacuate 4,741 Indians but also 1,947 foreign nationals from 48 countries till 18 April under most difficult circumstances. Our approach in the evacuation process has been guided by the spirit of “वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्”.
We are all aware of the internal turmoil Yemen has witnessed since post-Arab spring protests in 2011. Due to serious differences between Zaidi Shia group of Houthis from Northern Yemen and the federal government led by President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the country has been witnessing political uncertainty and worsening security scenario since September 2014.
The Government of India has kept a regular and close watch on the internal developments in Yemen. The deteriorating internal situation in Yemen not only has a direct bearing on the regional security but also on the safety and well-being of our nationals living there. As per estimates from our Embassy in Sana’a, over 4,000 Indians were working in various sectors in Yemen.
In anticipation of a possible deterioration of the security environment in Yemen, the Ministry of External Affairs and our Embassy in Sana’a issued three advisories on 21 January, 19 March and 25 March this year urging our nationals there to leave Yemen voluntarily by available commercial means as it was possible to leave safely. At that time, no one paid attention to these advisories and left Yemen.
Thereafter, an inter-ministerial team led by a senior official from the Ministry of External Affairs visited Yemen from 9-13 March to assess the local security situation and to advise on additional security measures required for the protection of our Embassy officials and other Indian nationals living there.
We took urgent and necessary steps to ensure security of our nationals and got in touch with the local Yemeni authorities and other governments in the region for their safe and timely evacuation. The no-fly zone imposed on the Yemeni airspace and blockade of sea route by the coalition forces made the evacuation exercise a complex and very difficult task.
I personally spoke to the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia on 27 and 29 March and requested for assistance in our evacuation efforts. On 30 March, Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji, had a telephonic conversation with the King of Saudi Arabia, His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, during which the King of Saudi Arabia assured him of all necessary assistance.
An inter-ministerial “Standing Group for Repatriation of Indian nationals from Abroad” under the chairmanship of Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs Shri Anil Wadhwa met on a daily basis since 26 March to plan, coordinate and implement the evacuation plans. I myself chaired several meetings of this Group from 30 March onwards to review and make effective the plans for evacuation by air and sea route.
We established a 24-hour control room and help-lines in the Ministry of External Affairs from 26 March to assist our nationals in Yemen and their concerned family members in India. Similar 24-hour help-lines were established in our Embassy in Sana’a and control room in Djibouti.
Keeping in view the complexity of the operations, we made Djibouti the hub for our evacuation efforts. My colleague Minister of State General V.K. Singh personally supervised these efforts from our camp office in Djibouti. He shuttled between Sana’a and Djibouti sparing no effort to accomplish this difficult task. He was duly assisted by our Ambassador in Ethiopia Shri Sanjay Verma operating from Djibouti. We also deputed 26 officials from the Ministry of External Affairs to Djibouti and Sana’a to strengthen and coordinate our evacuation efforts.
Necessary logistical arrangements were put in place in coordination with the Ministries of Home, Defence and Civil Aviation for the evacuation. We deployed adequate capacity for evacuation through 5 naval ships and 7 aircrafts.
There were 3 Indian navy warships – INS Sumitra, INS Mumbai and INS Tarkash and 2 Indian passenger vessels – Kavaratti and Coral. Out of 7 aircrafts – 3 were Indian Air Force C-17 Globemasters and 4 Air India commercial aircrafts.
Three Air India aircrafts ferried evacuees, both Indian and foreign nationals, from Sana’a to Djibouti. One Air India 777 was used for onward journey of Indian nationals to Kochi and Mumbai. Our naval ships evacuated people safely from Aden, Al-Hudaydah and Al-Mukalla ports in Yemen, despite heavy shelling and fighting on the ports between the warring factions.
Under the close supervision of our Ambassador Shri Amrit Lugun, our Embassy officials / Staff in Yemen worked round-the-clock in most trying circumstances to carry out the evacuation plans. Our officers deployed in Djibouti also worked tirelessly and coordinated this massive effort. Our Honorary Consul in Djibouti Shri Nalin Kothari provided all possible local assistance.
We also ensured that our nationals not in possession of travel documents were provided emergency certificates by our Embassy in Sana’a. We left no stone unturned to assist all those Indians in Yemen desirous of returning home in a timely and safe evacuation.
We did not stop at taking care of the evacuation process only from Yemen but went a step further. Indian Railways provided all hospitality and confirmed tickets free of charge for onward journey to their homes. The state governments concerned, especially of Maharashtra and Kerala, provided assistance to all returnees on their arrival in India.
I would like to make a special mention of the efforts made by the Government of Maharashtra. Though majority of returnees reaching Mumbai belonged to other states, the Maharashtra Government extended all facilities to them at the airport and further provided a cash grant of Rs. 3,000 for onward journey.
As Indian Embassy was among the handful of foreign missions operational in Sana’a after the airstrikes began, we received formal requests from 33 countries, including from neighbouring and Western countries, for assistance in evacuation of their nationals. We responded positively to these requests to the extent possible based on ground realities and helped nationals of 48 countries in evacuation.
We assisted nationals of Australia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Canada, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Maldives, Morocco, Myanmar, Mexico, Moldova, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Somalia, Sweden, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Spain, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, the UK, Uzbekistan, the US, the UAE, Uganda, Ukraine and Yemen. This received worldwide appreciation.
As for the evacuated Indians, they are from 27 States and Union Territories. The State-wise list of evacuees is as follows:-
· Assam – 3
· Andaman & Nicobar Islands – 1
· Bihar – 219
· Gujarat -115
· Goa -30
· Himachal Pradesh- 5
· Haryana – 5
· Jharkhand -20
· Jammu & Kashmir -1
· Karnataka -123
· Kerala – 2,527
· Maharashtra – 293
· Manipur – 3
· Madhya Pradesh – 47
· Nagaland – 2
· NCT Delhi -23
· Odisha – 31
· Pudducherry – 1
· Punjab – 31
· Rajasthan – 60
· Tamilnadu – 427
· Telengana/Andhra Pradesh -180
· Tripura – 1
· Uttar Pradesh – 368
· Uttarakhand -30 and
· West Bengal -195.
Till 18 April, a total of 6,688 persons including 4,741 Indians and 1,947 foreign nationals have been evacuated by air and sea routes in this operation. It was a joint effort of several Indian Ministries and agencies, supervised and coordinated by the Ministry of External Affairs.
In view of the worsening security situation in Sana’a and after the successful conclusion of the evacuation process, we have relocated our Embassy to Djibouti on 15 April. Our Embassy would continue to operate from Djibouti till situation returns to normalcy in Yemen.