Warships on standby for Iraq evacuations, Air India too alerted
New Delhi: With the situation worsening in violence-hit Iraq, the Indian Navy has put two warships on standby for possible evacuation of Indians stranded in strife-torn Iraq.
An Indian warship has been deployed in the Persian Gulf and kept on standby while the air force has also kept heavylift transport aircraft C17 and recently acquired C-130J Super Hercules on standby for any short notice evacuation operation.
Another warship, INS Tarkash, is in the Gulf of Aden. Though INS Tarkash is there for antipiracy operations, it is ready to take on any new task, sources said.
The decision to send INS Mysore was also taken at a meeting of the crisis management group on Friday. The meeting was attended by, among others, the three service chiefs.
It is also believed that the Air India has been asked to be ready for evacuation operations if required.
MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said India will provide all possible assistance to Indians stranded in Iraq. “All our national assets will be in readiness, should they be required to assist Indian nationals,” he said. The MEA has already rushed a team to Iraq to assist evacuation of Indians. Government sources said many of the Indians in Iraq do not have valid travel documents, and this will only add to evacuation challenges.
There are estimated to be over 10,000 Indian nationals in Iraq, but most are in the safer parts of the country. According to available information, besides the 39 Indians kidnapped by ISIS militants in Mosul, 46 nurses are stuck in a hospital in Tikrit, a city which is held by the rebels. Government sources said that just over 100 Indians are holed up in strife-torn areas.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who has been monitoring the situation in Iraq, has called a meeting of Indian heads of mission of the Gulf nations. The Indian ambassador in Iraq would not be attending as he is required to be present in Baghdad.