NEW DELHI: India has evacuated at least 534 Indian nationals from Sudan and is looking to rescue more of its citizens from the strife-torn African nation before the end of a tenuous ceasefire between the regular army and a paramilitary force.
Two C-130J military transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force brought to Jeddah 256 Indians from Port Sudan on Wednesday, a day after an Indian Navy ship rescued 278 citizens from that country.
The total number of Indians evacuated so far from Sudan stands at 534, according to official data.
Under its evacuation mission ‘Operation Kaveri’, India is taking the evacuees to the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah from where they are returning home.
India has set up a transit facility at Jeddah and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan is overseeing the evacuation mission from the Saudi Arabian city.
The first batch of 278 Indians were evacuated from Port Sudan by the Indian Navy’s frontline ship INS Sumedha on Tuesday.
According to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, the first C-130J aircraft brought to Jeddah 121 passengers while the second plane evacuated 135.
“A second C-130 flight reaches Jeddah bringing 135 passengers from Sudan. #OperationKaveri moving steadily forward,” he tweeted.
India stepped up its efforts to evacuate the Indians from Sudan as a 72-hour truce was agreed to between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) following intense negotiations.
“Happy to see off 360 Indians at Jeddah Airport in a flight bound for New Delhi. They will be reaching the motherland soon, reuniting with their families,” Muraleedharan tweeted alog with a video of the passengers inside a civilian aircraft.
“Under #OperationKaveri the Government is working relentlessly to evacuate Indian nationals from Sudan & bring them home safely,” he said.
Sources said a C-17 military transport aircraft of the IAF has left for Jeddah on Wednesday to bring back the evacuees from Jeddah to Mumbai. The aircraft is expected to land in Mumbai on Thursday morning.
Sudan has been witnessing deadly fighting between the country’s army and a paramilitary group that has reportedly left around 400 people dead.
External Affairs Minister Jaishankar on Monday announced the launch of the mission to evacuate ‘Operation Kaveri’ to bring back the stranded Indians from Sudan.
India on Sunday said it has positioned two transport aircraft of the IAF in Jeddah and naval ship INS Sumedha at Port Sudan as part of its contingency plans to evacuate the Indians.
Apart from the Sudanese authorities, the MEA and the Indian embassy in Sudan have been in regular touch with the UN, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and US among others.
At a high-level meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had issued directions for preparation of contingency plans to evacuate Indians from Sudan.
Last week, Jaishankar spoke to his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt on the ground situation in Sudan with a focus on ensuring the safety of the Indians.
On Thursday, Jaishankar discussed the situation in Sudan with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.