In view of the worsening situation in Yemen's capital Sana'a, India has shifted its embassy to Djibouti, adjoining the war-torn country, after the "successful" conclusion of the process to evacuate its nationals, government informed the Lok Sabha today.
Under the operation 'Raahat', 6,688 people were evacuated from Yemen, including 4,741 Indians and 1,947 foreign nationals by air and sea routes, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a suo motu statement.
"I am glad to inform this August House that operation 'Raahat' conducted for the evacuation of Indian nationals from war-torn Yemen has been a resounding success, well-acknowledged by the international community.
"We not only managed to safely evacuate 4,741 Indians but also 1,947 foreign nationals from 48 countries till 18 April under most difficult circumstances," she said.
India's approach in the evacuation process has been guided by the spirit of 'vasudev kutumbakam' (the whole world is one), Swaraj said.
While giving details about the evacuation process and related developments, she said, "in view of the worsening security situation in Sana’a and after the successful conclusion of the evacuation process, we have relocated our Embassy to Djibouti on April 15."
She said the Indian Embassy would continue to operate from Djibouti till situation returns to normal in Yemen.
Swaraj said India had received formal requests from 33 countries, including some neighbouring and western nations, for assistance in evacuation of their nationals as the Indian Embassy was among the handful of foreign missions operational in Sana’a after the air-strikes began.
"We responded positively to these requests to the extent possible based on ground realities and helped nationals of 48 countries in evacuation," the Minister said.
India assisted nationals of Pakistan, the US, the UK, Australia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Canada, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Maldives, Morocco, Myanmar, Mexico, Moldova, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Somalia, Sweden, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Spain, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, Uzbekistan, the UAE, Uganda, Ukraine and Yemen.
"This received worldwide appreciation," she said.
The Indians evacuated from Yemen were from 27 states. The maximum of 2,527 belonged to Kerala, while 427 hailed from Tamil Nadu, 368 from Uttar Pradesh, 293 from Maharashtra, 219 from Bihar, 195 from West Bengal and 180 from Telangana/Andhra Pradesh besides others.
She praised Minister of State for External Affairs Gen (retd) V K Singh, who personally supervised the evacuation efforts in Djibouti and shuttled between Sana'a and Djibouti "sparing no effort to accomplish this difficult task".
Singh "did not work as a minister but as a General", she said.
India also deputed 26 officials from the Ministry of External Affairs to Djibouti and Sana’a to strengthen and coordinate the evacuation efforts, she said.
Swaraj said the government, in anticipation of deteriorating situation in Yemen, had put in place necessary logistical arrangements involving coordination among the ministries of Home, Defence and Civil Aviation for the evacuation. Five naval ships and 7 aircraft were deployed for the evacuation.
"We took urgent and necessary steps to ensure security of our nationals and got in touch with the local Yemeni authorities and other governments in the region for their safe and timely evacuation.
"The no-fly zone imposed on the Yemeni airspace and blockade of sea route by the coalition forces made the evacuation exercise a complex and very difficult task," she said.
Swaraj said she personally spoke to the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia on March 27 and 29, requesting for assistance in our evacuation efforts.
On March 30, the Prime Minister had a telephonic conversation with King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud who assured him of all necessary assistance, she said.
An inter-ministerial 'Standing Group for Repatriation of Indian nationals from Abroad', headed by Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs Anil Wadhwa met, on a daily basis since March 26 to plan, coordinate and implement the evacuation plans, she said.
"I myself chaired several meetings of this Group from 30 March onwards to review and make effective the plans for evacuation by air and sea route," the Minister said.
A 24-hour control room and help-lines were established in the Ministry of External Affairs from March 26 to assist Indian nationals in Yemen and their concerned family members in India.
Similar 24-hour help-lines were established in Indian Embassy in Sana’a and control room in Djibouti, she said.