India evacuated its embassy in Kabul this morning amid escalating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. A special Air Force flight brought back the envoy, along with other staff members and ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) troops. The evacuation operation has faced multiple challenges in the last 48 hours as Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan after 20 years on Sunday.
"Your welcome has an impact on all of us. Thanks to the Indian Air Force who flew us out under conditions that are not normal," Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Rudrendra Tandon told reporters, shortly after the special flight landed in Gujarat's Jamnagar.
"You cannot imagine how great it is to be back home. After two weeks of intense work, very complicated situation, the whole mission is very happy that it is finally over. We are back home safely, securely, without any accidents or harm to any of our people. We were a very large mission with 192 personnel, evacuated from Afghanistan literally within a period of three days in a very orderly fashion in two phases," he further said.
Mr Tandon described the situation in Afghanistan as "fluid", adding that a small number of Indian nationals remained in the country, and the government is continuously monitoring the situation to bring them back. "That is why Air India will continue to run its commercial services to Kabul as long as the airport in Kabul functions," he added.
Elaborating on the crisis, he explained: "It's not that we've abandoned people of Afghanistan. Their welfare and our relationship with them is very much in our mind. We'll try and continue our interaction with them, I can't exactly say in what form the situation is changing."
In a video tweeted by news agency ANI, several men were seen chanting "Bharat Mata ki Jai" (Hail mother India) as they expressed their happiness on returning to their homeland.
The Indian Air Force's C-17 aircraft - with more than 140 passengers aboard - took off from Jamnagar this afternoon, and is expected to land in Delhi at around 5:15 pm.
India has been facing numerous hurdles in its attempts to bring people back home safely with the security situation deteriorating sharply. Two aircraft were deployed for the evacuation of the embassy staff on Sunday. The first IAF C-17 aircraft with 45 personnel returned on Monday. However, with roads and airport operations shutting down, and chaos unfolding at Kabul airport, the Indian Ambassador in Kabul, other staff members, and ITBP troops could not be brought back earlier.
The Indian embassy was also reportedly under observation by the Taliban. The Taliban also raided the Shahir Visa Agency, which processes visas for Afghans looking to travel to India, sources said.
Some Indian staff members were reportedly stopped when they were on their way to the airport.
Kabul Airport, now controlled by the United States, resumed its operations this morning after a day-long mayhem when thousands were seen on tarmac, desperate to escape the Taliban rule.
In a late-night tweet, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said he "discussed" latest developments in Afghanistan with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and "underlined the urgency of restoring airport operations in Kabul". The overnight talks may have helped the evacuation.
Discussed latest developments in Afghanistan with @SecBlinken. Underlined the urgency of restoring airport operations in Kabul. Deeply appreciate the American efforts underway in this regard.— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) August 16, 2021
"In view of the prevailing circumstances, it has been decided that our ambassador in Kabul and his Indian staff will move to India immediately (sic)," Arindam Bagchi, Spokesperson, Ministry Of External Affairs, had tweeted this morning.
India has also announced a new category of electronic visa - "e-Emergency X-Misc Visa" - to fast-track applications from Afghans who wish to leave the Taliban-controlled country.
Mr Bagchi also shared the helpline number -- 919717785379-- as well as the email address to coordinate repatriation.
Afghanistan is witnessing its worst political crisis in two decades with Taliban's return to power, months after the US withdrawal of troops from the South Asian country. Shocking visuals showed the terrorists inside the Presidential Palace, shortly after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday.
Tragic scenes from Kabul Airport on Monday captured the plight of locals as wells as foreigners stuck in the country. A video that has caught global attention shows three persons falling to death from a plane as they try to escape.
(With inputs from agencies)