NEW DELHI: The Centre has alerted its two warships, which are currently sailing close to the Persian Gulf, to be on standby to visit the Basra port to evacuate Indians stuck in violence-hit Iraq, if needed.
The government has also asked the IAF to keep its transport fleet ready to fly to Iraq, if an evacuation plan was approved for the 10,000-odd Indians trapped there.
India already has the INS Mysore Destroyer in the Persian Gulf as part of its regular deployment on the Western seaboard and INS Tarkash Frigate in the Gulf of Aden on anti-piracy patrol. In the case of an emergency, they would be diverted to Basra, Navy sources said here.
Meanwhile, the IAF has kept the C-17 strategic airlifter, C-130J special operations aircraft and IL-76 heavy-lift planes ready for operation as and when the government issues a green light. The decision to keep the two Armed forces ready for operation was taken by the National Crisis Management Committee, which met on Thursday and Friday to study the options avilable for evacuating the Indians, who are currently in Iraq. The INS Mysore is one of the latest destroyers built by the Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Ltd, while the INS Tarkash is a Russian-built Krivak-III class Frigate that joined the Navy just two years ago.
The C-17 is a Boeing-built strategic airlifter for long distance deployment and carrying of troopers and equipment, while the C-130J is a medium-lift aircraft for carrying out special, behind the enemy lines operation.
The IL-76, a Russian origin heavy-lift transport aircraft, has been the workhorse of the IAF and has been extensively used for carrying troopers, equipment and supplies to Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region and Thoise, the nearest airbase to Siachen Glacier.
India on Saturday revealed that it has new “leads” on captive Indians in the region of Iraq taken over by Sunni Islamist rebels, even as the MEA assured that they remained unharmed as per the latest information. The Ministry is also preparing for Sunday’s brainstorming session of Indian ambassadors posted to Gulf countries.
“Those captive Indians remain in captivity. Yet, we have additional information received today that they remain unharmed and there are some leads provided, we are working on them,” MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.
But, he said that even with the new leads, the government had to move with lot of caution. “It is a conflict situation. There is no certainty where to proceed from here,” he said. There are about two score construction workers who were taken hostage about two weeks ago in Mosul, after the city in northern Iraq was taken over by Islamic SISI. One of them escaped and is now in Erbil in Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region in the north.
The other big group of Indians in the conflict zone is of 46 nurses in Tikrit. MEA spokesperson said that Indian ambassador in Iraq, A Ajay Kumar had spoke to them during the day.
“They are worried because there has been a fresh bout of fighting in Tikrit. However, there have not been any explosions in their compound,” said Akbaruddin.