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UAE sends aid for Indian health workers

India may bring back thousands of its nationals from the Gulf in the near future

May 02, 2020 10:41 pm | Updated 10:43 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Essential aid:  A consignment of medical supplies from the UAE ready for despatch to India.

Essential aid: A consignment of medical supplies from the UAE ready for despatch to India.

The United Arab Emirates on Saturday sent seven tonnes of medical supplies for Indian health workers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The aid from the leading Gulf nation is part of the Indian engagement with the region that is likely to lead to Delhi carrying out a massive evacuation of its nationals from the Gulf in the coming months.

The Embassy of UAE in a statement said the consignment underscores the ‘brotherly’ ties. “Combating COVID-19 has become a primary global concern, and we act out of our conviction that strengthening the efforts of other countries to contain the virus is a pressing necessity,” said Dr. Ahmed Abdul Rahman AlBanna, Ambassdor of UAE to India.

The Indian mission has also arranged to send a team of 88 specialists, doctors and nurses to the UAE to deal with the pandemic. The gesture from the Gulf monarchy coincides with India’s ongoing preparation to evacuate a large number of nationals from the Gulf which is likely to pose a big logistical challenge.

Commentators here have pointed out that the number of evacuees is likely to be between two to five lakhs, making it the largest evacuation campaign undertaken by India. New Delhi had undertaken a mass scale evacuation from Kuwait in October 1990 which led to repatriation of nearly 1,76,000 citizens. That operation is part of the Guinness Book of Records.

Also read: UAE to allow NRIs to return home | Post-lockdown, Indians in Gulf will be the first to return

That apart, a big evacuation was from Libya when the civil war hit that country in 2011 leading to the return of around 18,000 Indians.

Evacuation challenge

The others were Operation Sukoon of 2006 which evacuated around 2,300 nationals from Lebanon and Operation Raahat of 2015 which repatriated around 5,600 nationals from Yemen. A veteran diplomat said the large number now is partly necessitated as a bulk of the blue collar workers are without employment.

Anil Trigunayat, former Indian Ambassador to Libya who oversaw the evacuation in Tripoli during 2012 to 2014, recollected that India had to open a bank account in a third country, Malta, for meeting local expenses in Libya. But this time around, its missions in the Gulf will have to shoulder the burden. “Missions usually have a large amount of money for community welfare and they can utilise it to meet the local logistical and other expenses,” said Mr. Trigunayat.

According to the former envoy, the number of Indians willing to be evacuated may reach even the half-a-million mark in view of the widespread job cutsand the focus of the economies to move towards AI-driven future which will be less labour intensive. Diplomats say the Gulf has been tolerant of irregular workers or illegal immigrants from India in the past and there are signs that these economies want to get rid of such undocumented people. Kuwait in a statement on Friday has already said it wishes to fly home all unemployed Indians including those who have lived there without valid documentation.

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