“Life of every Indian is precious. Entire government machinery is working round the clock to ensure the safety and security of all Indians in Ukraine,” PM Narendra Modi.
Modi government has ensured the safety of Indians anywhere in the world, any time and under any circumstances. The Union government has attained the expertise and mastered the nuances of evacuating Indians from conflicted areas worldwide. Modi government has achieved this through the fine balancing of relations internationally with various countries, establishing the firm position of India globally and proper utilization of all available resources.
The Russia-Ukraine War
The Tragedy of war uses man’s best to do man’s worst. The war that started on Feb24, 2022, between Russia and Ukraine has resulted in collateral damage. Within a few days, crores of people are facing an unprecedented grave situation in Ukraine, including the people of Ukraine and other countries. People in Ukraine are facing a tough and scary situation, with no access to transport, daily essentials and even food in some places. Air and land routes have been under siege. Ukrainian air space was closed on February 24, 2022.
Ukraine has around 80000 citizens from several nations. All of them are facing dire consequences. Allegedly, international citizens are facing hostility from local Ukrainian citizens. Allegedly, Ukraine is not allowing Indian citizens to cross the border in many places and is not providing basic needs and food. Various countries have adopted different mechanisms to help their respective citizens.
Measures by China, USA, UK and Germany
China, the USA, UK and Germany have declared that the conditions in Ukraine are too precarious and unsafe to undertake the evacuation of citizens. China has issued no travel advisories, support measures, and contact numbers. China citizens were advised not to display China flags. China requested citizens not to enter any altercation with local Ukrainian citizens after claims of rising hostility towards Chinese citizens. The USA asked its citizens to follow Ukraine advisories and remain in caution for active combat, crime, and civil unrest. The USA asked its citizens to depart from Ukraine using commercial or privately owned transport means. British nationals were told not to expect consular support. British Embassy office in Kyiv was relocated to Lviv. The German embassy in Kyiv was closed. It requested citizens to leave Ukraine.
What is India doing?
India gave utmost priority to the safety of around 16000 Indian citizens in Ukraine. Modi government, in every possible way, is and was trying to assist Indian citizens.
• India took several supportive measures to help Indian citizens in Ukraine.
• PM Modi has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding the safe passage of Indians.
• India has been at the front foot in issuing advisories from the beginning. Suspecting escalation of events between Russian and Ukraine Indian government on February 15, issued an advisory to Indians to evacuate Ukraine. While some followed the advice and returned to India, the rest believed in assurances of the Ukrainian government and stayed back in Ukraine.
• Indian embassy issued advisories to Indian citizens regularly. Indian government arranged helpline contact numbers and mail IDs for stranded citizens.
• Modi government undertook “Operation Ganga” to evacuate Indian citizens from Ukraine even under such unsafe and hostile circumstances.
• Central government has coordinated with states regarding the details of Indian nationals residing in Ukraine.
• India has spoken with border countries and issued advisories to Indian nationals to arrive at border countries like Romania, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. Buses carrying Indian nationals holding Indian flags are safely allowed to cross the border. Indian citizens are airlifted to India from these countries using Air India aeroplanes.
• Private aircraft companies like Spice jet, Indigo and Air India Express have also become a part of Operation Ganga and sent aeroplanes to Budapest and Bucharest.
• As of 01-3-2022, over 2000 Indians were airlifted from Ukraine to India using 9 Indian aircraft.
• While the rest of the superpowers denied evacuation measures to unsafe circumstances in Ukraine, the Modi government on 28-2-2022 decided to send four top Union ministers to countries bordering Ukraine to coordinate for the better evacuation of Indian nationals from war-torn Ukraine. Jyotiraditya Scindia (Romania & Moldova), Kiren Rijiju (Slovakia), Hardeep Singh Puri (Hungary) and Gen V.K. Singh (Poland), respectively, are supervising the evacuation of Indian nationals.
• On 1-3-2022, honourable PM Narendra Modi called on the Indian Air Force to become part of Operation Ganga for faster evacuation of Indian citizens from Ukraine.
• The Indian government bears the entire cost of the evacuation process. Each flight cost over Rs. 1.1 crore per trip.
Tough global Evacuations of Indians by Modi Government
Vande Bharat Mission- One of the largest civilian evacuations by any country in peacetime. When international flights were halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian government arranged repatriation flights globally, evacuating 18 lakh Indians in 15 phases over 11 days between May 7 to May 17 2020.
Operation Maitri- 5000 Indians were rescued from Nepal after the earthquake in April 2015.
Operation Rahat- More than 4500 Indians and 960 foreigners evacuated from Yemen in June 2015.
Operation Devishakti- In August 2021, over 800 people, including 260 Indians, were rescued from Taliban captured Afghanistan.
In June 2014, 46 Indian nurses were rescued from ISIS captivity in Iraq.
Exfiltration of CRPF contingent from Libya in 2019.
Undoubtedly, India is relentlessly using all possible and best measures to help Indian nationals stranded in Ukraine. A sneak peek at various measures adopted by various countries proves this fact. Politicising such a grave crisis is really cheap and unwarranted. Global powers have backed off from evacuation. But the Indian government has put every effort with all available means to take care of the safety of Indians in the Russia- Ukraine war. The intent of the Modi government is sincere and in a good cause. Bad situations have to be faced with courage and commitment, hoping for good. That is exactly what the Modi government is doing with Operation Ganga. The intent being “Every Indian daughter and son shall come home safe from Ukraine.”
(The writer is a state media panellist, state executive committee member and state in charge for research and policy, Mahila Morcha, BJP Andhra Pradesh)