Air India flight brings 129 people from Kabul

The situation in Afghan capital is ‘extremely fluid and unpredictable’, say Indian officials

August 15, 2021 08:38 pm | Updated August 16, 2021 01:45 pm IST - NEW DELHI

An Afghan national is mobbed by the media as he arrives by an Air India special flight from Kabul at the Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi on August 15, 2021.

An Afghan national is mobbed by the media as he arrives by an Air India special flight from Kabul at the Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi on August 15, 2021.

The situation in Kabul is “extremely fluid and unpredictable,” said officials here on Sunday as Air India operated a commercial flight that evacuated 129 passengers. The aircraft, AI 243, faced difficulty while landing in Kabul and had to circle over the Afghan capital for some time as countries raced against time to evacuate their citizens as the Taliban fighters took over.

Available information suggests that the Government of President Ashraf Ghani has collapsed and the whereabouts of the President is uncertain.

Air India sources informed that a similar flight will leave for Kabul on Monday morning to continue the process of evacuation of the Indian nationals stuck in the Afghan capital which at present is facing disfunctional banks and surrender of the traffic police in various parts of the capital. Sources here refused to confirm if India will shut down its embassy in Kabul even as South Block continued to review the security situation. It is however likely that depending on the security situation, the India-based officials could be brought back at any moment.

Sources have confirmed that New Delhi has a C17 Globemaster aircraft on standby for quick mobilisation in case a larger evacuation is required. Over the last few days a large number of Afghans have reached out to the Embassy of India seeking visa to get out of the Afghan capital which fell to the Taliban fighters as the militants entered without any resistance. But officials here have said that smooth functioning of any kind of consular service is difficult because of the chaos on the ground in Kabul.

India had been planning a similar evacuation process over the last few days and an Air India aircraft flew out citizens from Mazar-e-Sharif last Tuesday as the city was taken over by Taliban fighters. Officials here indicated that they are focused on ensuring safety of the Indian citizens and diplomats stuck in Kabul and will ensure that they are brought back safely.

The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs last Thursday had declared that India will ensure safety of the Hindu and Sikh citizens of Afghanistan. Civil society initiatives have also come forth with Vikramjit Sahney, International President of World Punjabi Organisation, volunteering to send chartered aircraft to Kabul to evacuate Hindu and Sikh citizens of Afghanistan. Mr. Sahney has in the past carried out similar evacuation process for Hindu and Sikh families from Afghanistan.

Jaishankar in U.S.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar travelled to New York for a visit from August 16-19 to chair two sessions of the UN Security Council on peacekeeping and terrorism. The visit was scheduled earlier, but is expected to see him participate in consultations on the developing situation in Afghanistan as well, and he will also have bilateral meetings with Foreign Ministers of other UNSC members on the sidelines of the two sessions.

“The first event on August 18, 2021 will be an Open Debate on ‘Protecting the Protectors: Technology and Peacekeeping’ while the second event on August 19, 2021 will be a high-level briefing on ‘Threats to International Peace and Security caused by Terrorist Acts,” said an MEA statement, adding that he would preside over a briefing session on the six-monthly report of the UN Secretary General on the threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh, which is also likely to focus on Afghanistan and regional security.

During the visit, Mr. Jaishankar is also expected to prepare for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. next month, where he is expected to address the UN General Assembly on September 25, and discussions are under way for a possible visit to Washington for a summit of the U.S.-Australia-India-Japan Quadrilateral.

(With inputs from Suhasini Haidar)

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