India launches Operation Ganga for evacuation of stranded nationals from Ukraine
New Delhi: According top priority to the safe evacuation of thousands of stranded Indian students and nationals in war-hit Ukraine, India has launched a multi-pronged evacuation plan “Operation Ganga’’.
Giving details at a special briefing here, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that about 4,000 Indian nationals and students had left Ukraine before the Russian attack but an estimated 15,000 Indian nationals were still stuck there. He said the government was bearing the cost of Operation Ganga since it was an emergency situation.
Since air space over Ukraine is closed, he said that India has launched about nine flights out of neighbouring countries of Hungary and Romania over the next 24 to 48 hours.
“We have activated four land routes through border posts at Romania, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia,’’ he said.
About eight Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) teams have been deployed at border areas and Indian nationals have been advised to move westwards from Ukraine as eastern areas were conflict zones.
Voicing India’s concerns, the Foreign Secretary said that he had separate meetings with envoys of Russia and Ukraine and shared locations of Indian students and nationals who were stranded in Ukraine. “Both the ambassadors assured that they would help in ensuring safe evacuation of Indian nationals,’’ he said.
In addition, India has also kept the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) informed of its concerns.
Shringla said that rail and road routes to Poland were open but a large number of people fleeing Ukraine had clogged the road route. He said that MEA had recommended taking a train out of Kyiv to Budapest which was available every two hours and from there flights of Indian carriers were available.
He said that hotlines of MEA at border posts as well as Indian Embassies in the neighbouring countries and at the ministry headquarters in New Delhi were working round the clock for assistance.
The Foreign Secretary said that Operation Ganga was being directly monitored by External Affairs Minister who had spoken to his counterparts in Hungary and Moldova and supervised by the Prime Minister as the government was giving top priority to bringing back all stranded Indian nationals home safely.