- Sources said aircraft will go to Kabul once enough Indians reach airport
- India working with US to facilitate movement of aircraft, sources said
- Over 400 Indians may need to be evacuated, according to sources
A C-17 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force is on standby to fly to Kabul and bring home Indian nationals who are stuck in the war-torn country after the Taliban takeover, sources have said. The IAF aircraft will go to Kabul as soon as enough Indian nationals are able to move to the airport in the Afghan capital, the sources said.
India is working closely with the US government to facilitate movement of the IAF transport aircraft to Kabul, sources said. The government is hopeful up to 250 Indians can be evacuated in this C-17, but it depends on how many of them are able to reach the airport as the Taliban is in control of the city, controlling movement and checkpoints.
Operating an Air India flight to Kabul has proven to be difficult, so the IAF remains on standby, sources said, adding over an estimated 400 Indians may need to be evacuated, but the exact figure is unclear at the moment.
The visa applications of Afghan nationals are also being assessed by the Home Ministry, sources said.
Two IAF C-17s flew into Kabul on August 15 to evacuate Indian embassy personnel, including Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel tasked with guarding them. The first aircraft took off under very challenging circumstances given the chaos at Kabul airport where thousands of desperate Afghans had arrived in the hope of flying out of the country.
Another group of Indian mission members - over 120 of them - including Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon, boarded the second IAF C-17 and safely left Afghan airspace on Tuesday morning and landed in Gujarat's Jamnagar, from where they finally flew to Hindon IAF base near Delhi.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) today called on the Taliban to allow people being evacuated to leave Afghanistan, and vowed that the allies would remain in "close coordination" while operations continue.
The joint declaration by NATO's 30-member countries was made following an emergency video conference of their foreign ministers to discuss evacuation efforts and the next steps to take, news agency AFP reported.
While thousands have been evacuated so far, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said at the start of the videoconference that foreigners and Afghans were struggling to reach Kabul airport, AFP reported.