JAMNAGAR: Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Rudrendra Tandon on Tuesday asserted India has not abandoned the people of the war-ravaged country with whom New Delhi forged longstanding ties and which is now under the Taliban control.
Maintaining that welfare of the Afghan people and "our relationship with them is very much in our mind", the envoy expressed happiness over the safe return of Indians from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of that country whose citizens now face an uncertain future.
"We are happy that it's finally over and we are back home safely and securely without any accidents. We were a very large mission of 192 personnel, who were evacuated from Afghanistan within a period of three days in a very orderly fashion in two phases," Tandon told reporters at Jamnagar.
An Indian Air Force plane with 120 people on-board, including Tandon, landed on Tuesday at the Jamnagar airbase in Gujarat from Kabul in Afghanistan. The aircraft had taken off from Kabul carrying Indian personnel as part of an emergency evacuation that was undertaken amid rapidly worsening security situation in Afghanistan.
The aircraft then left for New Delhi from Jamnagar after refueling.
Tandon said that in addition to the mission personnel, those who were evacuated from Afghanistan included people working in public sector companies such as Air India and other Indian citizens who found themselves "in distress due to the fast changing situation".
Speaking about Afghanistan post the Taliban's violent takeover, the envoy said welfare of the people of the war-torn country was still on India's mind. "It's not that we have abandoned the people of Afghanistan. Their welfare and our relationship with them is very much in our mind. We will, going forward, try and continue our interaction with them, of course I can't exactly say in what form or manner, as the situation is changing so much," he said.
About the safe return of Indians, Tandon said the Indian embassy had adopted a policy wherein "anyone who reached the embassy was taken inside the premises to ensure their safety and an avenue for an exit".
"We are still monitoring the situation as there are some Indians there, that is why Air India will continue its commercial service till Kabul, as long as the airport there is functional. The Ministry of External Affairs has opened a help desk there so that anyone who is stuck there is somehow brought here," he said.
According to Tandon, though some Indians contacted the embassy for evacuation, they could not be brought back yet as they were "too far away and were in areas that were no longer possible to access".
Moreover, there are many others who had earlier chosen to stay back in Kabul but later on "changed their mind", he said, adding that such people will also be brought back once the commercial service begins.
When asked about the exact number of Indians still stranded in Afghanistan, Tandon said the figure could be 40 to 50. He, however, highlighted the fact that many Indians had not registered themselves with the embassy, making it difficult for the mission authorities to contact them in the prevailing situation.
"(Some of the) Indian nationals, unfortunately, do not register themselves with Indian embassies, though we keep sending them advisories...There are some individuals there, I know personally of, at least 5 to 6. But, as per the figures quoted to us, it could be 40 to 50, But, that (figure) is not something that I stand by officially," he said.