New Delhi: Hours before multiple explosions at Kabul left the US and rest of the world shell-shocked and in agony, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar has told an all-party meeting that frequent firing incidents near the airport and inside Afghan capital" created massive hurdles for evacuation.
Dr Jaishankar also said that till Thursday morning (August 26), out of a total 565 evacuated, 15 were from other nations.
The floor leaders from various parties in Parliament have been also told that the Government had sensed troubles brewing in Afghanistan sometime back and had therefore ordered the scaling down of the Embassy in Kabul from June 2021 itself.
As part of that exercise, evacuation from Kandahar was carried out on July 10 and 11, and evacuation from Mazar-e-Sharif on August 10-11. The evacuees included 112 Afghan nationals, including Hindus and Sikhs. Of them, 175 were from Embassy Personnel and other Indian nationals – 263. The government has also introduced an E-visa system for Afghan nationals. The Minister reportedly said the Taliban have not kept their word as per Doha deliberations.
The Doha pact, signed between Taliban leaders and the US in February 2020, had envisaged religious freedom and democracy, with a government in Kabul that represented all sections of Afghan society. Sources said the Minister told the leaders that the Govt of India has also facilitated the evacuation of Indians by other agencies
Besides frequent firing incidents near the airport and inside Kabul, the Minister also said there were other issues in Kabul, such as multiple checkpoints by various groups, at times issues at the airport Landing permissions delays, Overflight Clearances from relevant countries and coordination on the ground.
He also told them a Special Afghan Cell set up by MEA on August 16 was able to coordinate repatriation and other requests from Afghanistan in a streamlined manner. The cell has an Operational system in place 24X7 for responding to requests over calls, emails and WhatsApp messages manned by more than 20 MEA officials. It has attended 3014 calls, responded to 7826 Whatsapp Messages and answered as many as 3101 Emails.
A series of security advisories were issued on June 29, July 24, August 10 and August 12 2021. Indian nationals were advised to leave immediately and had also been given a warning of discontinuation of commercial airlines.
Dr Jaishankar underlined that at present, India’s priorities in the circumstances include evacuation of Indian nationals and safety of our diplomatic personnel along with assistance to Afghan nationals in distress.
New Delhi is also keen to provide leadership in the 'Neighbourhood First' policy and thus has been coordinating with some neighbouring countries and tried to help evacuation of third party nationals. In between, India chaired the UNSC special meeting on Afghanistan.