Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday night requested Saudi King Salman to help India evacuate its nationals from Yemen as New Delhi decided to take sea route to rescue around 400 expatriates stranded in Aden, a port city in the strife-torn country, after the government’s plans to airlift them did not materialise in view of attack on Sana’a airport Sunday night.
Two merchant vessels and two warships — destroyer Mumbai and stealth frigate Tarkash — also left for Yemen, which is in the throes of a Houthi rebel uprising, to help ferry other stranded expatriates back home. The government has also pressed into service INS Sumitra to ensure the safety and security of the passengers from pirates.
Late in the night, the Saudi King called up the Prime Minister, who shared concerns on the safety of around 4,000 Indians in Yemen. He also briefed King Salman on India’s evacuation plan and requested his support and cooperation.
The King said India and Saudi Arabia shared a close relationship and assured the PM of his full attention to the safety of Indians in Yemen and all possible assistance for their early and safe evacuation, an MEA statement said. Warplanes from Saudi Arabia and Arab allies have been striking the Shi’ite rebels fighting to oust Yemen’s President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi.
Earlier, in the day External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held an inter-ministerial meeting, attended by Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha and senior officials from the Navy, the Defence and the External Affairs ministries, the government decided that a local ship would be used to ferry all the stranded Indians in Aden to Djibouti. There are around 300 to 400 Indians in Aden, who would be reaching the African nation on Tuesday.
In Djibouti, the Indian nationals would be assisted by senior diplomats. They would then leave for India on two military transport C-17 Globemaster aircraft. Meanwhile, 80 Indians, who had left Yemen on Saturday for Djibouti, have returned to their respective states.
MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said MoS External Affairs Gen. (retd) V K Singh would leave for Djibouti on Tuesday to supervise the evacuation efforts.
After being granted permission to fly from Sana’a, India had sent two Air India planes. However, because of the attack on the Yemen airport, the planes were at the airport in Muscat.
Meanwhile, two passenger ships with a 1,500 passengers each left Kochi in morning for Yemen. The ships would take at least five days to reach the destination. The port of call of the merchant ships — MV Kavaratti and MV Coral — is likely Al Hudaydah in Yemen. The ships would take the stranded Indians to Djibouti from where they would be flown to India.
Nurses working in Sana’a said the situation has become worse. “Even Indians running shops and establishments have shut their business to move out of Yemen,’’ said Ragesh Velayudan, a nurse from Kerala.
(With ENS Mumbai)