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Operation Rahat: Back home to safety

Operation Rahat: Back home to safety

With Yemen edging towards a relentless civil war amidst the military operations launched by Saudi Arabia with the aid of the GCC and the OIC member countries against the Houthi rebels, tensions escalate over the safety of the stranded Indian nationals in the country.

Houthis, the Zaidi branch of Shiite Islam, make up to about 40 percent of the country’s population and is advancing capturing major Yemeni cities. Saudi Arabia initiated the air strikes in an effort to dislodge them and announced that the military operations would last until a ‘legitimate’ government was restored. The situations in Yemen are worsening day and day with the attacks continuing even during day time. Around 358 Indians are stranded in the war-torn country including 260 Keralites and efforts are being continued by the Foreign Ministry to bring them back. An evacuation operation, titled ‘Operation Rahat’ involving naval and air force crafts and two passenger liners Kavaratti and Coral have been launched to rescue the Indians, majority of them, from Kerala. Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh is currently in Djibouti to oversee the evacuation efforts along with five diplomats for assistance. The evacuees including women and children were taken in the navy’s off-shore patrolling vessel, INS Sumitra to Djibouti and then by Indian Air Force's C-17s who landed them safely in Kochi and Mumbai.

Despite all the efforts, uncertainty persists as to how long it would take to complete the rescue operation. Previously, it was during the time of Gulf war and the internal conflicts in Iraq, that the government was wary of the return of the stranded Indians. The IS and Al Qaida insurgents are tightening their grip on Yemen and the conflicts in Sana’a compounds the scenario. An estimated 4500 Indian nationals reside in Yemen, most of them nurses from Kerala. Due to the difficulty in finding a job elsewhere, they are unwilling to return to the home country trying to survive amidst the civil war and risking their lives. It therefore requires the state government’s urgent intervention and awareness about the matter needs to be created. Those unwilling to return should be convinced through their family members and the people whose journey back to their home country is delayed due to the loss of the passports or required documents, should get in touch with the Indian Consulate.

Many countries, including Pakistan and China, have evacuated their nationals utilizing not just the major airports like Aden and Sana’a but also those in the provincial capitals. Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud has assured Modi of full assistance in the safe evacuation of the stranded Indians. But how far it is practical amidst the current scenario is yet to be seen. Alternative approaches should also be adopted and implemented with immediate effect. More advantageous and effective programs should be deployed and if required more officials should be assigned at the Indian embassy in Sana’a to help accomplish the mission.

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