The night that tested the Navy

In the choppy Aden waters, INS Tarkash faced unruly crowds.

Updated - November 28, 2021 09:54 am IST

Published - April 13, 2015 03:13 am IST - New Delhi:

For the Indian Navy, Operation Rahat has become not just a people-rescue mission, though the force can take credit for helping to ferry home 5,000 Indians safely. In the choppy waters of war-torn Yemen, amid strafing and crossfire, the officers and seamen had to brave heavy odds, as on April 10.

“It was a riot-like situation, with bombs going off, Saudi airstrikes continuing to pound the city, and hundreds of people [of various nationalities] surrounding our ship to get on board and flee the violence,” recounts one of the men on board INS Tarkash of that night that threw the toughest challenge to Indian forces.

The Hindu has accessed photographs and eyewitness accounts from those on board the naval ship of the horrors of that night as the vessel stayed in the waters off Aden, waiting for the last of Indians who could find their way out of a country aflame. Hundreds of men and women arrived on boats, demanding that they be taken to Djibouti by the ship.

One witness said people trying to clamber on to INS Tarkash included armed men, some toting AK-47s. “We turned away anyone who was armed, but later we recovered live and fired ammunition from them, and knives as well,” an official said.

The body of one Indian, Manjeet Singh, who died of injuries when caught in the crossfire coming out of Aden, was brought to Djibouti by the ship, which carried pregnant women, people with cancer and malnourished children.

Yemenis and those of other nationalities desperate to get on to the ship forced Indians to stay back at the harbour until they boarded. “After taking in 200 evacuees and finding that more than 90 per cent of them were Yemenis, we realised they were stopping Indians from coming out to the ship,” one officer said. “We told the Aden port control sternly that unless they send Indians to us on the boats, we would not take Yemenis; they finally budged.” Even so, the ship carried only 50 Indians among more than 460 evacuees to Djibouti.

Asked if the ship had been in any danger, Naval Public Relations Officer Captain D.K. Sharma said: “If our men are stuck and we have to rescue thousands, we use force-protection measures. Our ships are well equipped and the men know how to handle such situations.”

Speaking about the challenges that the naval personnel faced, Captain Sharma said, “When you are going to a place that has fallen to rebels … all the authorities and infrastructure fail. Our men have been working as a sea bridge without respite, to bring Indian citizens out of Yemen, stopping in Djibouti only to make them disembark and then going back into the war zone.”

Yemen Evacuation
One question that remains is why are Indian forces exposed to high risks to rescue nationals of so many countries > Read about the brave Navy personnel here

The great Yemen escape: Operation Rahat by numbers

5,600+

Total number of people evacuated

4,640

Indians Rescued

960

foreign nationals rescued

41

countries whose citizen were rescued by India

2900+

those evacuated by air through 18 special flights out of Sana a

1670

those rescued by sea from Aden, Al Hudaydah and Al Mukalla

Day-by-day action

(Approximate, based on tweets from MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin and General V.K. Singh)

April 1

  • Navy's INS Sumitra
  • Aden
  • 348

April 2

  • Navy's INS Sumitra
  • Al Hudaydah
  • 300+

April 3

  • 2 flights from Air India
  • 351

April 4

  • 325
  • 439

April 5

  • 488
  • 225+229
  • 203

April 6

  • 574
  • 176
  • 479

April 7

  • 600+

April 8

  • 630 (Air operations conclude)

April 9

  • 349 (Evacuation concludes)
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