India evacuates 350 nationals from Yemen, to help Bangladesh too

New Delhi: With fighting intensifying in Yemen, India on Wednesday evacuated 350 nationals, mostly from Kerala, from the southern Yemeni port of Aden to Djibouti, where IAF Globemaster transport planes were waiting to transport them to India. India has also agreed to assist Bangladesh pull out its citizens.

The 350 Indians arrived in Djibouti on Tuesday night on board Indian naval ship INS Sumitra and would be brought back to India by Wednesday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said.

Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh, who reached neighbouring Djibouti on Tuesday, was coordinating the evacuation operation with the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force.

Sushma Swaraj tweeted that one IAF Globemaster transport plane with Indian nationals would land in Kochi and the other in Mumbai.

“Indian nationals evacuated from Aden by Indian Navy have reached Djibouti. They will be brought back to India by Indian Air Force today (Wednesday). One plane will land in Kochi and the other in Mumbai late this evening,” Sushma Swaraj said.

Of the 350 Indians evacuated, 206 belong to Kerala, 40 are from Tamil Nadu, 31 from Maharashtra, 23 from West Bengal, 22 from Delhi, 15 from Karnataka and 13 from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, according to tweets by external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.

Two warships — destroyer INS Mumbai and stealth frigate INS Tarkash — are also on their way to Djibouti as part of an operation named “Op Raahat”.

Djibouti is located on the Horn of Africa in the Gulf of Aden.

Fighting has been going on in Yemen since January 22 when the legitimate government under President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was ousted by Shia Houthi forces.

This has provoked the recent military campaign by a coalition of 10 countries led by Saudi Arabia.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to act fast to help Keralites stranded in Yemen.

In a letter, Chandy said he was getting frantic calls from young Kerala nurses in Yemen.

He pointed out that Pakistani and Chinese nationals had already been evacuated.

“They (nurses) all are literally weeping and are afraid for their lives if urgent steps are not taken,” wrote Chandy.

He also pressed Modi to prevail upon Saudi Arabia to ensure landing facilities for Indian flights in Sana’a and other airports in Yemen.

He said all Indians who want to return may be provided an exit pass and permission to leave Yemen without paying any fees.

“Some hospitals including the Sana’a Military Hospital are not permitting our nurses to leave Yemen. They are demanding compensation and withholding the passports,” Chandy said.

“The Indian embassy should contact all such hospitals and do the needful since the nurses and paramedical staff cannot pay any compensation,” he added.

Kerala government sources said some 600 Keralites were awaiting a relief flight from India at the Sana’a airport.

Besides helping its own nationals, India will also assist Bangladesh in bringing back its stranded nationals from Yemen.

According to Bangladeshi media, the Indian move came hours after Foreign Secretary Md. Shahidul Haque told journalists in Dhaka that they had spoken to New Delhi on ways to bring back their nationals.

The Bangladeshi foreign secretary on Wednesday said India had agreed in principle to help Bangladesh evacuate its nationals, but after pulling out its own nationals.

The Indian High Commission tweeted: “India to Assist in Evacuation of Bangladesh Nationals from Yemen.”

According to the Bangladesh government estimates, between 1,500 and 3,000 Bangladeshis, who mostly work with international organisations, live in Yemen.