On Tuesday, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar shared the details of Operation Ganga which was launched to evacuate stranded Indian nationals from Ukraine amid the Russia-Ukraine war. “India evacuated 147 foreign nationals from 18 countries during its evacuation mission”, he said in the Rajya Sabha during the ongoing Budget Session of the Parliament.
Breaking: India evacuted 147 foreign nationals from 18 countries during its evacuation mission, says EAM Jaishankar in the Parliament on the situation in Ukraine https://t.co/T8lwY9wXO8— Sidhant Sibal (@sidhant) March 15, 2022
He said that India launched Operation Ganga, thereby undertaking one of the most challenging evacuation exercises during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. He also said that Indians were dispersed across Ukraine, posing logistical challenges for the government. “Despite the challenges posed by the serious ongoing conflict, we have ensured that about 22,500 citizens have returned home safely,” Jaishankar stated adding that there are still a few people – in double digits – who are stranded in Ukraine. “We are tracking them,” S Jaishankar said on March 15.
Further, Jaishankar mentioned that most of the Indian nationals stuck in Ukraine were students pursuing medical studies in Ukrainian universities and were dispersed throughout the country. The Indian Embassy in Ukraine had started a registration drive for Indians in the month of January 2022. Around 20,000 Indians had registered. “In view of the continued buildup of tensions in February, the Embassy issued an advisory on 15 February 2022, advising Indians in Ukraine whose stay isn’t essential to leave country temporarily. It also advised Indians not to travel to Ukraine or undertake non-essential movements within Ukraine”, he added.
At the Prime Minister’s direction, we launched #OperationGanga, one of— SansadTV (@sansad_tv) March 15, 2022
the most challenging evacuation exercises during an ongoing conflict situation, says EAM @DrSJaishankar in #RajyaSabha@MEAIndia @PMOIndia @IndianDiplomacy @IndiainUkraine pic.twitter.com/gZrH4CUjgn
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, the Indian students evacuated from Ukraine hail from 35 states and UTs of India with over 1000 students each from Kerala, UP, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bihar and Rajasthan. He further said that evacuation of students from Kharkiv, Sumy was most challenging and that Sumy evacuation materialized only because of PM Modi’s intervention.
Amid the war, more than 600 Indian nationals were stuck in the conflict ridden city of Sumy who were moved to a safer location by the Indian Embassy in Ukraine. Along with the Indian nationals, students from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal were also rescued. They were brought back to India through the humanitarian corridors in Kyiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Maripol. The human corridor in Sumy was announced only after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia to provide a safe passage to evacuate the Indian nationals stuck in Sumy.
The Russian government had informed that upon request by the Indian government, they had worked on halting the war and creating a humanitarian corridor for evacuation.
India rescuing foreign nationals under ‘Operation Ganga’
It is important to note that on March 12, Nepal PM Sher Bahadur Deuba had thanked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the evacuation of four Nepali nationals from the conflict zone of Ukraine. Earlier, on March 9, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina had thanked PM Modi for rescuing nine Bangladeshi nationals from Ukraine under ‘Operation Ganga’.
Also, a Pakistani national had expressed gratitude towards the Indian embassy in Kyiv and PM Modi for rescuing her amid the evacuation process for the Indians stranded due to Russia’s aggression. Apart from Nepalese, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, even Tunisian students were rescued under Operation Ganga.
About Operation Ganga-
Operation Ganga was launched on February 26 to evacuate nearly 20,000 Indian nationals who were stuck in Ukraine amid the conflict. Several special flights had been running from Poland, Romania, and Hungary to bring the students home. Air India, Air India Express, IndiGo, and SpiceJet had also joined the mission operating multiple flights from Ukraine’s neighbouring countries to Delhi and Mumbai.
“47 additional officials of the Ministry of External Affairs were dispatched. Along with our embassy personnel, these officials went to extraordinary lengths to ensure the success of Operation Ganga. Under the operation, 90 flights were operated – 14 of these were Indian Air Force planes. Most private airlines also participated,” S Jaishankar said on March 15.
Jyotiraditya Scindia, Minister of Civil Aviation had earlier informed that the Indian government had been working 24/7 to ensure that all Indians could get out of Ukraine safe. “There were 19760 odd children in Ukraine. Before the war broke out, through the advisories, about 4800 children had already left”, he had said.
It must be mentioned that the Ukrainian airspace was closed for civilian aircraft from the day the war between Russia and Ukraine broke out. As such, the Indian embassy in Ukraine had to coordinate with the embassies of neighbouring countries in Poland, Romania and Hungary for the creation of safe evacuation channels. Under ‘Operation Ganga’, Indians were first taken in batches from Ukraine to bordering countries via buses/commute arranged by the embassy. They were then airlifted to Delhi or Mumbai through chartered Air India flights.
The Indian government had sent its 4 Union Ministers, namely, Hardeep Singh Puri, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kiren Rijiju and General (Retd) VK Singh to Hungary, Romania and Moldova, Slovakia, and Poland respectively, to coordinate the Operation Ganga