New Delhi: With the fall of Kabul on August 15 to the hands of Taliban, India’s biggest focus was to bring back its diplomatic officials and several stranded nationals including journalists and ITBP officials. Indian air force’s two C17s were used to bring back them, the first of which arrived on Monday, and the second one on Tuesday. The message from the top was clear, that “security of our diplomatic staff and official is paramount”
While the first C17 had around 40-45 Indians, the second one had more than 100 Indians including the Indian’s envoy to Afghanistan Rudrendra Tandon. The complex process which was constantly being monitored by officials including External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval had two key segments, the movement from the Indian embassy in Kabul to the airport and then from the airport to India.
Of the two movements, movements from Embassy to Airport was the risky one, and in that India used its contacts, including locals who maneuvered the convey through the 45-minute long distance.
The biggest worry were the 15 check posts. While most of these check posts were manned by the Taliban, some of them were infiltrated with rouge elements. Elements who could have been inimical to Indian personnel being brought back.
In a city with no governance, the biggest risk was the uncertainty of what to come and who to deal with. Sources said, “India in a short time was able to bring out everyone and contrast this with any other countries. We had an all of the Govt approaches. We coordinated with the US govt in the evacuation”.
Other than the US govt, India had its C17 parked in Tajikistan for a brief period since Kabul airport didn’t have space to park the planes due to increased load. The C17s were time to time flown in from the Ayni airbase of Tajikistan as and when the operation began. Notably, the Kabul airport is now under the control of the Americans.
With the evacuation process, while all of the Indian diplomatic staff has been brought back from Afghanistan, but the Indian embassy in Kabul continues to function with help of locals. India also continues to provide consular service, with India announcing an emergency e visa system for the Afghans who want to come to India.
India had already started evacuating its officials from its consulates from Kandahar and Mazar-E-Sharif when the Taliban was making its rapid advances. India had certain ‘red lines’ which if crossed put in motion the process of evacuation, like in the case of Mazar-e-sharif, the fall of Phenergan. But India was still among the last to leave the northern city.