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Modi government’s successful rescue operations: Here is how PM Modi became a Sankatmochak for Indians stranded abroad in times of global crises

It is noteworthy that besides safeguarding Indian citizens, the Indian Embassy and Armed Forces have also assisted citizens of neighbouring countries, earning the moniker, ‘Vishwa Bandu’.

Global peace and security have been experiencing instability due to various conflicts and wars on multiple fronts. Additionally, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these crises, leading to multiple occasions when the large Indian diaspora found itself stranded in war-torn or crises-hit nations. However, while several major powers were caught wanting for opportunities to act or left their stranded diasporas on their own, a slew of successful rescue missions by the Modi government have underscored that Indians abroad can be assured of their safety amidst raging wars or unprecedented crises.

Throughout the tenure of the Modi government, numerous rescue operations were conducted. Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, millions of stranded Indians in various foreign nations were safely evacuated, despite the absence of well-established norms. 

Likewise, during the Ukraine-Russia war, Modi cabinet ministers visited the crisis-hit region and facilitated the evacuation of stranded Indian students. Additionally, the Indian Army also participated in evacuating members of the Indian diaspora from Sudan during this time. It is noteworthy that besides safeguarding Indian citizens, the Indian Embassy and Armed Forces have also assisted citizens of neighbouring countries, earning the moniker, ‘Vishwa Bandu’. Vishwa Bandu, translated as ‘Brother of the World,’ embodies the spirit of universal brotherhood, as brothers are not considered superior or inferior, fostering a sense of equality and solidarity.

Following is a brief listing of around 10 rescue missions undertaken during the ten years of the Modi government. 

46 Indian nurses rescued from ISIS captivity in strife-torn Iraq in 2014

In June 2014, depressing news trickled in from strife-torn Iraq, where the Islamic State was making rapid territorial gains. The ISIS terrorists had managed to intrude into Tikrit as the Civil War between them and the Iraqi Army escalated. A contingent of Indian nurses was deployed to a hospital in Tikrit to look after the injured and sick. It was just weeks after Narendra Modi had sworn in as the Prime Minister with a very new cabinet.

46 Indian nurses were stranded in the hospital. All except one of the 46 nurses were from Kerala. For days on end, the nurses lived in perpetual fear of being assaulted and executed at the hands of their ISIS captors, who were also known for committing unspeakable atrocities against women and holding them as sex slaves. 

Throughout their ordeal, the Indian Embassy in Baghdad steadfastly kept in touch with them on the phone and at times recharged their prepaid cell phones. On June 30, the nurses were ferried to the border by the ISIS terrorists. From their office at the border, another bus was arranged to transport the nurses to the Indian rescue team. They were then taken to the military office, and then Erbil airport after their documents were verified. The Indian Government had arranged a special flight from Delhi to Erbil to fly the nurses back. After 23 days of traumatic experience, the nurses, unscathed and unharmed, finally boarded the flight on July 5 and returned home.

The then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had maintained a continuous touch with all the major countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq. It is believed that New Delhi activated informal channels and established peripheral contacts with ISIS, and other splinter groups in Iraq to precipitate the rescue.

India extends the hand of ‘Maitri’ (friendship) to Earthquake-struck Nepal

In 2015, high seismicity earthquakes wreaked havoc in Nepal and some parts of India but given the strained economic and social condition of the Himalayan nation, it needed support and aid from multiple channels. Acting swiftly, the Modi government announced  ‘Operation Maitri’ to give a massive thrust to its rescue and relief mission in quake-devastated Nepal. 

India had deployed 12 heavy-duty military aircraft and 18 helicopters. Additionally, the country opened its four land routes to connect to Kathmandu and Pokhara Valley to safeguard men and materials.

In addition to aiding Nepal, India successfully evacuated over 43,000 stranded Indians via land routes by April 30th. The Air Force and Army conducted more than 11,000 evacuation missions, totaling over 2200 sorties, to transport people to safety. Moreover, Indian forces delivered over 1700 tons of aid supplies during this time. Additionally, Indian forces also conducted numerous rescues of Nepalese citizens.

More than 4,500 Indians and 960 foreigners evacuated from war-ravaged Yemen in 2015 under Operation Rahat

In 2015, as fighting raged between the Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government, thousands of Indians got stranded. This prompted the Modi government to launch ‘Operation Rahat’ to evacuate Indian citizens and foreign nationals from Yemen. 

Since Yemen was not accessible by air due to a no-fly zone announced by Saudi Arabia, India chose Djibouti initially as a centre to carry out initial evacuation by sea. The Indian government also sent the then Minister of State for Overseas Indian Affairs General (Retd) V.K. Singh to oversee operations from the nearest port of Djibouti city.

The operation was launched on 1st April 2015 and ended on 11th April after ensuring the safety of all stranded Indians. 

Under Operation Rahat, India rescued about 4,640 Indians stranded in Yemen, along with 960 foreign nationals from more than 41 countries including the US and the UK. Some of the countries did not have the operational capability to carry out a complex evacuation process so they sought India’s help. India happily obliged and rescued the beleaguered foreign nationals.

The then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had later revealed that PM Modi’s personnel connect in the form of a direct phone call to the Saudi King had facilitated this massive evacuation mission. 

‘Operation Sankat Mochan’ in South Sudan

In 2016, a severe conflict erupted in the newest country in the world, South Sudan. The situation escalated into a civil war between the government and rebels. The then-president of South Sudan accused his former ally of rebellion. The country was already grappling with various problems, and the situation worsened. In July 2016, the Modi government announced ‘Operation Sankat Mochan’ to rescue its stranded citizens from the conflict-hit nation.

Under Operation Sankat Mochan, 300 Indians stranded in violence-hit South Sudan were rescued by the Modi government. Additionally, Indian armed forces also rescued other foreign nationals including Nepali citizens. 

Again, it was General VK Singh who rose to the occasion and oversaw the execution of the rescue mission while remaining in the Middle-eastern region. The same was widely appreciated by the citizens for his relentless efforts in service of the nation like that of a soldier.

India exfiltrates CRPF contingent amidst escalating tensions in Libya in 2019

With the security situation on the ground rapidly deteriorating in Libya, the then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in April 2019 announced that an entire contingent of CRPF troops was removed from the conflict zone. The root of the crisis that continues to plague Libya to this day is the unrest that sparked the Arab Spring in 2011. 

The infighting between warring factions had escalated in 2019 with the launch of a military campaign known as the Western Libya campaign, initiated on 4 April 2019 by Operation Flood of Dignity of the Libyan National Army to capture the western region of Libya and eventually the capital Tripoli held by the United Nations Security Council-recognised Government of National Accord. 

The Indian government initiated a massive evacuation plan to rescue the marooned people from the country. Later, the then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted that the evacuation of an entire contingent of CRPF forces was carried out as the situation in Tripoli had worsened.

During this time, some Indians residing in Tripoli were still hesitant to leave everything behind and get rescued from the war-torn country. With more than 500 Indians still in Tripoli, the then EAM Sushma Swaraj requested families and friends of people in Libya’s capital city Tripoli to persuade them to leave immediately amid an emergency.

Operation Samudra Setu and Operation Vande Bharat: Countrymen safely return to India amidst the scare of the COVID pandemic

The COVID outbreak hit the world in 2020, leading the world to a grinding halt and chaotic situation. A large number of Indians also got stranded abroad. The Modi government launched ‘Operation Samudra Setu’ and ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ to rescue

stranded Indians worldwide. The Navy deployed its ships Jalashwa, Magar, and Airavat, along with Shardul, for this purpose. During this period, the Navy safely brought back 3992 people from different countries.

While flights were suspended worldwide during the COVID, the Modi government, through the ‘Vande Bharat Mission,’ brought back its citizens from more than 100 countries. In a reply given in Parliament in March 2022, the Ministry of External Affairs stated that it had provided assistance to 2.97 crore people. During this time, Indians were rescued from countries including China, the United States, and Russia.

Operation Devi Shakti: Kabul evacuation in 2021 after the terror outfit Taliban took over Afghanistan

On August 15, 2021, while India celebrated its Independence Day, chaos unfolded in neighbouring Afghanistan. The terrorist organisation Taliban seized control of the country’s capital, Kabul. The democratically elected government led by Ashraf Ghani collapsed in the face of aggression by the terrorist outfit, following the withdrawal of US and Allied forces from Afghanistan. The Taliban’s takeover precipitated a humanitarian crisis and prompted the exodus of religious minorities, including Sikhs and Indians, as well as critics and opponents of the Taliban regime.

Consequently, the Modi government launched ‘Operation Devi Shakti’, under which more than 500 Indian citizens were safely evacuated. Additionally, around 110 Afghan Sikhs as well as Swaroop of Guru Granth Sahib were brought to India from Afghanistan. The pictures of Sikhs carrying Guru Granth Sahib on their heads have gone viral on social media. 

Operation Ganga: Indian students rescued from Ukraine amid its war with Russia

In February 2022, war broke out between Russia and Ukraine. Russia initiated airstrikes on large areas of Ukraine. As a result, a significant number of Indians were stranded in Ukraine. Among these Indians, the largest number were students studying medicine in Ukraine. At the time the war began, there were over 20,000 Indians present in Ukraine. India utilised its diplomatic strength to evacuate students from Ukraine. Indian students later revealed that the Indian tricolour had come to their rescue as they were told that pasting the Indian tricolour in front of the vehicles would save them from shelling and gunfire as both Russia and Ukraine had agreed to cease hostilities in safety corridors for Indians.

The Modi government negotiated with Russia and Ukraine to create safe corridors for its citizens. During this time, under Operation Ganga, more than 18,282 Indian citizens were brought back via over 90 flights. Ministers of the Indian government were also actively involved in this entire mission. India also evacuated several Nepali citizens from Ukraine.

During the Budget Session of the Parliament in 2022, Foreign Minister Dr. S Jaishankar updated the Rajya Sabha about the details of the rescue mission. Back then, he had said, “India evacuated 147 foreign nationals from 18 countries during its evacuation mission.”

Operation Kaveri: To rescue stranded Indians from war-torn Sudan in 2023

In 2023, the Modi government launched Operation Kaveri to evacuate stranded Indians from war-torn Sudan. In April 2023, a fierce war broke out between two army factions in Sudan. More than 3500 Indians were stranded in Sudan. A large number of these were people who had gone from Karnataka. India launched Operation Kaveri to save them. Under Operation Kaveri, India evacuated 3961 Indians and 136 foreign nationals from Sudan.

The Indians were evacuated from Port Sudan to Jeddah after the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) agreed to extend their ceasefire amid ongoing violence in the capital Khartoum and the western Darfur region. Indians were taken from Port Sudan to Jeddah on Navy ships and C-130J planes, from where they are being flown to India on C17 jet planes. 

Operation Ajay

On 7th October 2023, the Islamic terrorist organisation Hamas launched an operation against Israel from land, air and sea killing over 1,200 men, women, children and Israeli soldiers. Following the terrorist attack in Southern Israel, there were concerns regarding the safety of Indian nationals, prompting the Modi government to announce Operation Ajay. Under this rescue operation, India safely evacuated more than 1300 citizens from Israel. India had also rescued several foreign nationals during this mission.  

(Late Sushma Swaraj, Former Foreign Minister had assured stranded Indians about their safety, irrespective of their location)

“Even if you are stuck on Mars, the Indian embassy there will help you” – these reassuring words of the late stateswoman politician Sushma Swaraj, the then Minister of External Affairs, aptly sum up the Indian government’s policy of acting as a Sankatmochak for every stranded Indian and swiftly bringing them out of harm’s way, ensuring that no Indian is left behind.

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