India rescues diplomatic staff, paramilitary troopers in daring Afghanistan mission but it isn’t the country’s first

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With different countries in the world racing against time to evacuate citizens from Afghanistan, India too embarked on a mission to save Indians trapped in the strife-torn nation with hardly any means to return home.

To start with India safely brought back home its diplomatic staff, including the ambassador, from Afghanistan in the first leg of the mission. It was not an easy operation and had serious security and logistical challenges. Some 200 people were brought back from Kabul in two military aircraft — one flight landed on Monday with over 40 staffers while the other came in on Tuesday afternoon with around 150 people.

However, this is not India’s maiden experience in rescuing people from conflict zones and the country has done so in the past. Following are the biggest international evacuation operations that India has conducted since 2000.

Operation Sukoon

A number of foreign nationals were stuck in Lebanon when a military conflict broke out between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. The operation was launched to evacuate Indians, Sri Lankans and Nepalese citizens from war-hit Lebanon.

In one of the largest evacuations conducted by the Indian Navy, a total of 2,280 people including 1,764 Indians, 112 Sri Lankans, 64 Nepalese and seven Lebanese nationals with Indian spouses were evacuated following the conflict. The Indian Navy used the destroyer INS Mumbai, frigates INS Brahmaputra, INS Betwa and fleet tanker, INS Shakti for the mission.

Operation Safe Homecoming

Operation Safe Homecoming was an operation launched by the Indian government on 26 February, 2011 to evacuate its citizens who were fleeing from the Libyan Civil War.

The air-sea operation was conducted by the Indian Navy and Air India.

India ordered three naval ships — two destroyers and its largest amphibious vessel, the INS Jalashwa — to sail from Mumbai to Libya on 26 February to bring back the stranded nationals. At the end of the operation, around 15,000 Indians had been evacuated while 3,000 chose to stay back.

Workers rescued from Iraq

This is the real-life Tiger Zinda Hai story.

In June 2014, 46 Indian nurses were held in captivity by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants in war-ravaged Iraq for 23 days. They were stranded in their hospital in Tikrit when the civil war between the IS forces and the Iraqi army intensified.

On the afternoon of 13 June, 2014, the militants had occupied the ground floor of the hospital. Nurses could hear heavy firing and bombing for almost two hours. There were both staff and patients at the hospital everyone had hoarded up on the second floor of the hospital that had been converted into a dormitory.

Finally, after 23 days, the nurses were released and were brought home. On their release, the nurses said they had been well treated by their as yet unidentified captors. “They were good people because they did not misbehave with us. They provided for food, accommodation and whatever we wanted they provided for,” one nurse, who did not give her name, told a local television network.

Operation Raahat

The Indian government organised Operation Raahat with the help of Indian armed forces to evacuate Indians as well as foreign citizens from conflict-hit Yemen in 2015.

In March of 2015, the Royal Saudi Air Force led a coalition of Arab states in attacking the Shia Houthi rebels. As the fighting worsened in Yemen, the Indian government negotiated a window to get trapped nationals back home.

The operation started by sea on 1 April and two days later the airlifts started too. The airlifts by the Indian Air Force and Air India resulted in the evacuation of over 4,500 Indians and at least 900 foreign nationals from 41 countries. The airlifts concluded on 9 April.

While Indian naval ships evacuated nationals from Yemenese port cities to Djibouti and Air India ferried back nationals from Sana to Djibouti, IAF deployed three C-17 aircraft to ferry back Indian nationals from Djibouti to Kochi and Mumbai. As many as 11 evacuation trips were undertaken by IAF aircraft that facilitated the safe evacuation of 2,096 Indian nationals.

Rescue mission in Brussels

In 2016, a Jet Airways flight evacuated around 242 Indians, including 28 Jet Airways crew members who had been stranded in Brussels after multiple blasts hit the city.

Three coordinated suicide bombings — two at Brussels Airport and one at Maalbeek metro station in central Brussels — killed 32 civilians and the three perpetrators.

The airline first took around 800 people who had been stranded at the airport after coming in on four different flights by road to Amsterdam.

Two flights then left for Amsterdam from India, where one brought back 242 passengers to India and the other took off to Newark, United States.

In the attack at the airport, a Jet Airways crew member Nidhi Chaphekar — whose photograph as she sat, shocked and injured on a chair, became a defining image of the horrors of the blast.

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