As the Russian invasion into Ukraine materialised, bringing back their citizens has become a big task for governments across the world. The United States has even issued a travel advisory telling its citizens in Ukraine that it won’t be able to evacuate them.
So, even the world’s biggest superpower is helpless. On the other hand, India has already evacuated 469 of its citizens from Ukraine and is looking to bring back another 15,000 of them in the coming days. Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is on standby for evacuations. But we are not surprised. The armed forces actually have a glorious history of evacuating citizens from conflict zones and battlefields in distant corners of the world.
United States in its latest travel advisory tells its citizens in Ukraine that it won’t be able to evacuate them during this crisis.
India has also ready rescued over 469 Indian citizens from Ukraine and almost 15000 more to go in coming days.
What happened to the Super Power? pic.twitter.com/CBbMzbyDKC
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) February 26, 2022
Let’s take a look at some of the most important rescue missions successfully executed by the Indian armed forces to date.
Bringing back Indian citizens from conflict zones
Over the past two decades or so, the armed forces have carried out several options to evacuate Indian citizens stranded in different conflict zones.
In 2015, the government launched ‘Operation Raahat’ amidst the fighting between the Yemen government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the Middle East country. Thousands of Indians were stranded as Saudi Arabia had declared a no-fly zone to cut access to Yemen by air. Ultimately, the Indian Navy was pressed into service, even as India evacuated 4,640 Indians stranded in Yemen, along with 960 foreign foreigners.
Similarly, ‘Operation Sukoon’ was launched by the Navy in 2006 to rescue Indian, Sri Lankan and Nepalese citizens during the 2006 Lebanon War and ‘Operation Blossom’ was launched in 2011 to rescue 8,000 citizens who were stranded in Libya when mass protests broke out against the country’s military.
Responding to disasters in the neighbourhood
In fact, Indian armed forces have shown the capability of responding to natural disasters in the immediate neighbourhood as well.
In 2004, the island country of Sri Lanka was struck by a major tsunami that also affected India, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Maldives. Sri Lanka was however the worst affected. In order to respond to the crisis, operation ‘Sea wave’ was launched by the Indian armed forces. The three defence forces and the Coast Guard coordinated with each other in their response to the unprecedented crisis.
Dozens of aircraft carried over 5,000 tonnes of relief materials in the aftermath of the devastating tsunami. The IAF’s Mi-17 helicopters and Il-76 jets were also pressed into service to carry out rescue and relief work in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The Indian Navy too had deployed some of its assets specifically for the Maldives and Sri Lanka under ‘Operation Castor’ and ‘Operation Rainbow’ respectively.
Again in 2015, the Himalayan country of Nepal was struck by a massive earthquake. This time the Indian government and the Indian armed forces launched a joint relief and rescue operation codenamed ‘Operation Maitri’. India was able to respond within 15 minutes of the earthquake in Nepal.
India was actually the first country that kick-started relief operations and the joint Army-Air Force operation saw 5,000 Indians being evacuated from quake-hit Nepal by Air Force and civilian aircraft. Another 170 citizens from the US, the UK, Russia, and Germany too were evacuated by India.
Bringing Indian citizens back to safety amidst the Pandemic
And who can forget the relief operations carried out by the armed forces in the aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The entire world had come to a grinding halt around two years ago, but the Indian armed forces continued to discharge their duties.
India launched the Vande Bharat Mission to bring back Indian citizens stranded in different parts of the world. Some 60 lakh Indians were brought back by April 30, 2021. Air India and Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft were used to bring back citizens stuck in other parts of the world. The Indian Navy too launched Operation Samudra Setu to bring home Indian citizens and 3,992 Indian citizens came back to India by sea.
Indian military forces never leave citizens stranded abroad. You may be stuck in a tsunami, an earthquake or a war, the Indian armed forces know how to find a way to evacuate you and bring you back to India.