The Indian government is hard pressed for information regarding the seven Indians gone missing off the coast of Yemen, as Saudi-led air strikes had targeted two boatloads of people on Tuesday. While initial reports on Tuesday night said that 20 Indians were killed, the Ministry of External Affairs clarified on Wednesday that while 13 were alive, seven were missing.
The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Yemen that began in April, had led India to evacuate more than 6,000 Indians and thousands of foreign nationals including many Americans and Europeans.
It was billed as a massive Operation Rahat, and had surprised many by its scale and the speed of the operation. The Indian Air Force, Navy, aviation authorities and shipping agencies had coordinated with the ministries of External Affairs, Defence and Railways, and several state governments to execute the evacuation process.
India also managed to get coordinated “window periods” — when the Saudi didn’t conduct air strikes and Yemen didn’t shoot at the airplanes — and New Delhi had proudly claimed it had achieved diplomatic success to get both warring parties to suspend fighting while Indians carried out the evacuation.
Five months down the line, Indians have to bear the brunt of the air strikes once again. While the identity of the Indians and the reason for their presence in the boats that were hit in the airstrikes is still unclear, it is unusual for Indians to try to escape the bombing in such a risky situation. Very few Indians remain in Yemen since April, save for those who are part of the Yemeni society — by marriage or birth.
India’s resources in Yemen are depleted as it does not have an embassy there any longer. The nearest Indian diplomatic presence is in Djibouti.
To avoid Indians being caught in conflict areas, the Indian government usually issues advisories so that they don’t travel to such conflict zones. However, with job opportunities in such areas being lucrative, many choose to take a chance and get caught in such unfortunate circumstances.