India plans to airlift almost 15,000 stranded citizens across the world from 24 different countries starting from May 7. The exercise is being touted as one of the largest ever undertaken by any country.
According to an internal plan prepared by the Ministry of External Affairs and reviewed by Business Standard, while priority is the Gulf region, where 70 percent of non-resident Indians live, India will also bring back stranded citizens from London, Singapore, San Francisco, New York, Washington, Kuala Lumpur, Chicago in the first week itself.
The MEA clarified yesterday that this is a reaptriation exercise and not an evacuation, which means that passengers returning will have to bear the cost of their air ticket.
According to the plan, the passengers coming from Gulf will arrive at Kochi and Kozhikode, citizens from UK and USA will be brought back to Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Delhi.
The exercise will run into several weeks and will see state-owned carrier Air India, private airlines, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy joining hands to bring back the citizens.
India’s evacuation of 1,70,000 civilians from Kuwait during the 1990 Gulf war has been the world’s largest evacuation exercise of civilians by air. India had then operated a little less than 500 flights, mostly by Air India, over two months. More than 25 years later, the feat also inspired the Akshay Kumar-starrer Bollywood flick ‘Airlift’.
Three naval ships INS Jalashwa, INS Magar and INS Shardul have been sent to evacuate Indians stranded in Maldives and UAE . The ships sent to evacuate Indians from the Maldives and UAE will return to Kochi.
Indian Air Force has a fleet of US origin C-130 Hercules medium transporters and C-17 Globemaster heavy transport aircraft, in addition to older Russian IL-76 aircraft, which have been playing a major role in recent Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) efforts.