Indian Govt launches ‘Operation Ganga’ to rescue its citizens from Ukraine

Following the steps of national carrier Air India, domestic carrier IndiGo is also set to take part in ‘Operation Ganga’ to participate in the evacuations of Indians from Ukraine. The airline will be flying on the Delhi-Istanbul-Budapest route, reported India Today. According to the news report, the first IndiGo flight has taken off for Istanbul.

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As part of Operation Ganga, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla highlighted new initiatives on Sunday to expedite the process of rescuing Indians stranded in Ukraine, including opening new exit ports deemed safe for them to leave the country.

The effort will be totally funded by the government. During an election campaign meeting in Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned this, saying that India was making every effort to get its residents out of Ukraine.

Read more: Russia on high nuclear alert as Ukraine resists invasion

However, India continued to stay neutral on the conflict and suspended judgment on who was responsible for the war. Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has been in touch with his equivalent in Moldova, which has a border with Ukraine. He has also spoken to ministers in neighboring countries.

How India has planned its rescue mission?

The exit route from Moldova is less choked than the ones from Poland, which are jammed by Ukrainians seeking to flee from the war. Shringla said around 4,000 Indians were in the Kharkiv and Sumy regions in eastern Ukraine, as well as Odesa and the Crimea, where fighting is most intense.

These regions are also close to the Russian border, just at a distance of 70 km, and teams from the Indian embassy are at the border points, ready to evacuate Indians as soon as a window opens and there is a respite from the fighting.

Another alternative, he recommended, is to take a direct train from Kyiv to the Hungarian border. Shringla said he spoke to Russia’s and Ukraine’s envoys separately, expressing concern over Indian students and requesting both to order forces in the fighting countries to safeguard their safety. Both reassured him that precautions would be made to protect the Indians.

Read more: Ukraine: Lessons that are not being learned

Stranded students will shortly be home

“We’re asking citizens to move westwards. Take a train, then take the most appropriate border staging points and then leave the country.

There are teams from our embassies in all the countries to ensure you exit in an orderly and safe manner,” he said at a special briefing.

Earlier, the government had circulated the mobile phone numbers of officials who are part of the teams. This has been replaced with a hotline, which can be tapped to connect every caller to the most appropriate border point team.

Shringla said four flights had been run and two more will leave on Monday. Private airlines like IndiGo are arranging flights to Budapest, the capital of Hungary, via Istanbul, the capital of Turkey.

Read more: Why Ukraine’s crisis has convinced Pakistan to maintain a strong defense force?

“Our plan is to ensure that as citizens mass together, flights are made ready and all aircraft are ready to go at short notice,” Shringla said.

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