Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a high-level meeting to review the progress of evacuation of Indian nationals from Ukraine on Sunday evening. Foreign minister Subramanyam Jaishankar and foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla also attended. The government is making an all-out effort to get its citizens, including a large number of students out of the conflict zone. In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had raised the issue of Indians trapped in the country with President Zelenskyy when the Ukrainian leader had called him seeking New Delhi’s political support at the UN Security Council.
Earlier on Sunday, foreign secretary Shringla briefed reporters on the rescue mission. He said, a multi-pronged evacuation plan, code-named Operation Ganga was launched to fly stranded citizens out of Ukraine. There are roughly around 20,000 Indians, mostly students living in Ukraine. Of them, 4,000 had moved out before the conflict began on the basis of the advisory sent out by the embassy in Kyiv.
According to Shringla around 15,000 Indians are stuck in the country. So far 1,000 students have been brought back from Ukraine and more will come through the week. Four flights have already arrived with students evacuated from Romania and Hungary and two flights are likely to depart Sunday night or Monday morning.
The foreign secretary spoke to both the Russian and Ukrainian envoys in Delhi and asked them for assistance. “I called in both ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine separately and conveyed my concerns on the safety of Indian citizens. I've shared the locations where Indian citizens are concentrated. Both ambassadors took note of our concerns and assured us of the safety of Indian citizens,” Shringla said.
Foreign minister Jaishankar spoke to his counterpart Peter Szijjarto in Hungary and thanked him for assisting in evacuating Indians from the Hungarian-Ukrainian border. Jaishankar also dialled his Moldovan counterpart Nicu Popescu to seek support for facilitating entry of Indian nationals on Ukraine-Moldova border. Indian students are now being advised to try coming through the Moldova crossings, which are not as crowded as the rest. "Appreciate his ready response & strong support. MEA representatives will accordingly reach there tomorrow," the minister said in a tweet.
With Ukraine’s airspace closed to civilian traffic, students have to cross over the land border to Hungary, Poland, Romania or Slovakia to take the flight home. However reaching the border is becoming extremely difficult as the border posts are surging with people trying to get out of Ukraine to safety. It is being increasing difficult to cross to Poland. MEA has already dispatched teams of Russian speaking officers to Ukraine to assist Indian nationals. These teams are scouting round for safer and easier border crossings. Government has advised Indian nationals to move towards westward to reach Uzhhorod in western Ukraine, at the border with Slovakia and near the border with Hungary and from there take a train to reach the Romanian capital Bucharest. There are trains leave every two hours from here. Poland, Romania and Hungary are allowing Indian students who escape from Ukraine to enter without any visa.