Afghan crisis: India evacuates Kabul embassy, brings back envoy and other officials

Indian nationals on their arrival from crisis-hit Afghanistan by an Indian Air Force's C-17 aircraft, in Jamnagar, Tuesday, August 17, 2021.

New Delhi: India on Tuesday brought back home the Indian ambassador and its staff at the embassy in Kabul in a military transport aircraft in view of the deteriorating security situation in the Afghan capital, two days after its take over by the Taliban.

The C-17 heavy-lift aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) landed at Jamnagar in Gujarat at around 11:15 am en route to the Hindon airbase near the national capital.

Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Rudrendra Tandon told mediapersons in Jamnagar that the situation in Kabul is complex and "quite fluid" now and that Indians stuck in the city will be brought back home when the commercial flight services resume.

"Happy to be back home safely and securely. We are a very large mission. We are a mission of 192 personnel who were evacuated from Afghanistan literally within a period of three days in a very orderly fashion in two phases," he said.

Tandon, who assumed charge as Indian ambassador in Afghanistan in August last year, said the embassy provided assistance and even shelter to many distressed Indians following the fast-changing situation in Kabul.

"We are continuously monitoring the situation because there are still some Indian citizens who are there. That is why Air India will continue to run its commercial services to Kabul," he said.

"Your welcome has an impact on all of us. Thank you to the Indian Air Force who flew us out under conditions that are not normal," Tandon, said, adding continuing to work for the welfare of the Afghan people is very much on India's mind.

In the morning, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said it was decided that the ambassador and his Indian staff will move to India immediately considering the circumstances in Kabul.

"In view of the prevailing circumstances, it has been decided that our Ambassador in Kabul and his Indian staff will move to India immediately," Bagchi tweeted.

The transport aircraft of the IAF took off for India from the Kabul airport at around 8 am with over 120 people including officials and security personnel from the embassy. Some Indian nationals were also learnt to have returned.

It is the second evacuation flight. On Monday, another C-17 aircraft had evacuated around 40 people including a number of Indian embassy staff from Kabul before the operations at the airport in the city were suspended.

The two military aircraft flew into Kabul using the Iranian airspace while avoiding the route through the Pakistani airspace, the people cited above said.

New emergency visa for Afghans

Meanwhile, the Union Home Ministry on Tuesday announced a new category of visa to fast-tack the applications of Afghans who want to come to India in view of the prevailing situation in Afghanistan.

The announcement came two days after the Taliban captured power in Afghanistan.

"The MHA reviews visa provisions in view of the current situation in Afghanistan. A new category of electronic visa called 'e-Emergency X-Misc Visa' introduced to fast-track visa applications for entry into India," a home ministry spokesperson said.

Jaishankar in New York

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who arrived in New York to chair two high-level signature events this week under India's current Security Council Presidency, has said that he expects to discuss the situation in Afghanistan during his engagements at the United Nations.

Jaishankar arrived on Monday as the Security Council held an emergency meeting on the situation in Afghanistan, the second time in just over the 10 days that the powerful UN body met under India's Presidency for the month of August to discuss the rapidly deteriorating and unravelling situation in the war-torn country.

"Significant UN Security Council discussions today on developments in Afghanistan. Expressed the concerns of the international community. Expect to discuss these during my engagements at the UN," Jaishankar tweeted.

Jaishankar also discussed the "latest developments in Afghanistan with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and underlined the urgency of restoring airport operations in Kabul. Deeply appreciate the American efforts underway in this regard."

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Blinken spoke with Jaishankar today about Afghanistan and the developing situation there.

In a series of tweets, Jaishankar said that he is monitoring the situation in Kabul continuously. Understand the anxiety of those seeking to return to India. Airport operations are the main challenge. Discussions on with partners in that regard. Jaishankar also said that New Delhi is in constant touch with the Sikh and Hindu community leaders in Kabul. Their welfare will get our priority attention.

"Given the Kabul situation, important we have accurate information about Indians there. Urge that this be provided by all concerned to the MEA Special Afghanistan Cell," he said.

"The contact details of the cell are: phone number: +919717785379, Email:," Jaishankar said.

(With PTI inputs)

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