By: Abhyuday Saraswat, Research Analyst, GSDN
Operation Kaveri which involved the evacuation and airlifting of over 3500 Indian nationals Especially the Hakki-Pikki tribe, along with several other foreign nationals from war-torn Sudan to India, has been wrapped up with success of bringing 3862 Indians back home. The mission was carried out in response to the escalating violence and instability in Sudan, particularly in the Darfur region. The IAF deployed three C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and a team of over 50 personnel to facilitate the evacuation, along with INS Sumedha. The operation was conducted in close coordination with the Indian Embassy in Khartoum and the UN Mission in Sudan. Apart from Sudanese authorities, the MEA and the Indian Embassy in Sudan were in constant contact with the UN, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and the United States, among others. India not only brought back its own citizens but also those of its neighbour, Sri Lanka.
In April 2019, which ousted President Omar al-Bashir from power. The coup was led by the military after months of protests against al-Bashir’s regime. The military formed a transitional government, which was later replaced by a civilian-led government in 2020 after negotiations between the military and civilian forces. This was a significant moment in Sudan’s history, as it marked a shift towards democracy and civilian rule after decades of authoritarianism.
But the coup by the Sudanese Army in 2021 overthrew the Temporary Transitioning Government of Sudan as it was a move of ambition for power by Sudanese Armed Forces General Al-Burhan. The country is now in a state of civil war and tussle between the power-hungry General and the Rapid Security Force (RSF). Amid the civil war, the country has turned into an extreme hostile zone with no basic services functioning, and amidst all the chaos, the Indian diaspora is stuck in the regions of Darfur and Khartoum.
USA Brokered Ceasefire
A 72-hour ceasefire brokered by the US between Sudan’s warring generals went into effect following ten days of urban violence that killed hundreds, injured thousands, and prompted a major departure of foreigners. This truce intends to build humanitarian corridors that will allow citizens and communities to reach necessary resources, healthcare, and safe zones, as well as evacuate diplomatic missions. The government of India tried to make the most of the 72-hour window.
But the military is warning the people of North Bahri and even Al-Qari about the RSF’s looting of numerous grain mills, overpasses from some road companies, and distribution tanks owned by food companies that were being used to transport munitions from their depot, making them military targets.
External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar also met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York to request assistance. Given that humanitarian workers and ambulances have been targeted, it is evident that military troops, bureaucrats, and diplomats faced difficult days . They were undoubtedly helped by the cumulative experience of previous operations over the decades, culminating with the greatest single civilian evacuation during the Gulf War in 1991.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt are the key players and partners who helped India bring its citizens home back safely. INS Sumedha, the third ship of the indigenously built Saryu class Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels (NOPV), arrived in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on February 20, 2023, to participate in NAVDEX 23 (Naval Defence Exhibition) along with IDEX 23 (International Defence Exhibition). It was an important element in transporting the Indian diaspora from Sudan’s port to Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah port.
Between April 13 and 17, the INS Sumedha was moored at ‘Port Said’ in Egypt. On April 15, 2023, as fighting erupted between the Rapid Support Force (RSF) and the Sudanese military, Indian authorities dispatched the INS Sumedha to Port Sudan. INS Sumedha looked to be in a position to give rapid aid to the trapped Indians in Sudan due to its vicinity.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), this is due to the restriction of Sudanese airspace to all foreign planes, as well as the logistical hurdles and hazards connected with overland travel. Two Indian Air Force (IAF) C-130J planes were waiting in Jeddah to depart back to India with the trapped Indians from Jeddah Airport.
India’s Expertise in earlier Rescue Operations
This is not the first time when India has brought back its citizens home. Rescuing the Indian diaspora from hostile zones and returning them back to the motherland . Complex situations like these are the test of diplomatic ability and military capability of nations, and India has not just once but several times before proved its metal and executed such rescue missions successfully.
From Kuwait Air lift in 1990, following the march of one lakh Iraqi forces into Kuwait, over 2 lakh Indians were left trapped, leaving the general populace defenceless and with nowhere to go. Over the course of two months, the Indian government flew Indian citizens out of the country. Following this, Air India was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for carrying out the largest-ever air evacuation mission.
When the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels were embroiled in a fight in 2015, Indian authorities launched Operation Rahat. During the crisis, thousands of Indians and hundreds of international nationals were rescued from Yemen.
Operation Vande-Bharat was launched when the pandemic struck globally in 2020 and 2021, it trapped nearly 60 lakh Indian students as well as citizens of foreign nations. As a result, all foreign travel services were halted. The Indian government employed chartered planes, navy ships, and other ways to assist its countrymen in returning to the country.
Following Russia’s Special Military Operation in Ukraine, Kiev proclaimed a no-fly zone. However, almost 20,000 Indians were present in Ukraine and were assisted in returning to India in stages through Operation Ganga.
India’s capacity to evacuate its people is noteworthy, and the principle of “No man left behind” is strictly enforced. The standard operational procedures that India follows are now being adopted by other nations, demonstrating the Government of India’s dedication to its people.