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Covid-19: Forces readying for possible evacuation of Indians from Gulf

NEW DELHI: The armed forces are keeping some of their large warships and transport aircraft on stand-by to ensure they can swing into action if the government directs mass evacuation of Indians from the Gulf region.

“There are no explicit orders as yet but the warships and aircraft are being kept ready if the government decides to deploy them for evacuation. Similar is the case for Air India planes,” said an officer.

If the numbers to be evacuated are large, then deploying large amphibious warships or “landing platform docks” like INS Jalashwa, instead of only IAF and Air India aircraft, would make better logistical sense.

The 16,900-tonne INS Jalashwa, the country’s second-largest warship after aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, for instance, can transport 800-1,000 people. For evacuating smaller numbers, IAF can deploy its C-17 Globemaster-III and IL-76 aircraft. IAF has earlier deployed C-17 aircraft to Wuhan in China and Tehran in Iran to evacuate over 180 people.

“INS Jalashwa and two smaller LPDs can together evacuate around 1,500 people. Or, it can be a combination of LPDs as well as military and civil aircraft. The government will have to take the call after finalizing the number of people to be evacuated,” said the officer.

Though the Gulf region has over eight million Indians, many of them living in port cities, only those with family emergencies or the ones whose work permits have expired would probably be eager to return to India.

Both the Navy and IAF have helped in evacuating stranded Indians from different countries in the past. Indian warships, for instance, had evacuated Indians as well as foreign nationals from war-torn Yemen under Operation Rahat in early-2015.

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