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Evacuation of citizens, assistance to distressed Afghan nationals

By Standard Reporter | August 31st 2021

As many as 565 people, including 112 Afghan nationals, have been evacuated by India from Afghanistan since the Taliban seized control of the war-torn country, the Ministry of External Affairs informed the floor leaders of political parties in Parliament on Thursday.

According to sources, the ministry shared details on the recent developments in Afghanistan with floor leaders of various political parties in Parliament. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar briefed the leaders.

Among the 565 evacuees, 175 were embassy personnel, 263 other Indian nationals, 112 were Afghan nationals including Hindus and Sikhs and 15 were third-country nationals, sources said.

Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and LoP in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge were among the attendees.

According to the sources, the floor leaders were briefed about pre-emptive measures taken by the ministry, India’s priorities in the current circumstances, evacuation operation and challenges faced during the operations.

The ministry informed that evacuation of Indian nationals and the safety of diplomatic personal were among India’s priorities as Kabul fell to the Taliban.

India also prioritised assistance to Afghan nationals in distress and led international coordination and humanitarian efforts, the sources said.

Following the briefing of political leaders, Jaishankar said: “We briefed the Floor Leaders of all political parties today on the Afghanistan situation today. Our focus is on evacuation and the government is doing everything to evacuate people.”

“The message which we all political parties including the government wants to give is that on this matter we all have a very similar view. We have a strong national position in Afghanistan. The friendship with Afghan people matters to us,” he added.

Informing about the challenges faced during the evacuation, the ministry informed that there were frequent firing incidents near the airport and inside Kabul, landing permissions were delayed, multiple checkpoints were installed by various groups and they were “issues” at the airport, sources said.

Under pre-emptive measures, the ministry apprised the leaders that the temporary withdrawal of India-based “personnel from our Consulates in Herat and Jalalabad” was done in April 2020, the Indian nationals were advised to leave the country immediately and the Indians were also warning of discontinuation of commercial airlines.

Besides pre-emptive measures, the leaders were informed that India took several immediate measures including setting up of 24*7 Special Afghanistan Cell established in MEA and E-visa system started for Afghan nationals.

The ministry also informed about the setting up of a Special Afghan cell on August 16 to coordinate repatriation and other requests from Afghanistan in a streamlined manner, sources said.

The special Afghan cell is manned by more than 20 MEA officials. Over 3000 calls were attended by officials and they responded to 7,826 Whatsapp messages, sources said. 

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