India ‘extremely thankful’ for Saudi help as evacuees from Sudan reach Delhi

India ‘extremely thankful’ for Saudi help as evacuees from Sudan reach Delhi
India ‘extremely thankful’ for Saudi help as evacuees from Sudan reach Delhi

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - NEW DELHI: India’s government is grateful to Saudi Arabia for help in evacuating Indian nationals from Sudan, the foreign secretary said on Thursday, as the first group of evacuees reached New Delhi.

The mass evacuation of foreigners has been underway since Monday as Sudan’s warring factions — the army and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces — announced a 72-hour ceasefire.

More than 3,500 Indians have been living and working in Sudan. To evacuate them, India launched on Monday Operation Kaveri. It has so far managed to relocate about 2,000 from fighting zones, and 600 of them have reached New Delhi since Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia’s help has been key in the evacuation process.

“We are extremely thankful to them,” Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said in a press conference in New Delhi.

“We have been working very closely with the government of Saudi Arabia, the leadership of Saudi Arabia. They have been extremely helpful, supportive, cooperative in the endeavor and we are extremely grateful to them for that.”

Fighting in Sudan, which erupted on April 15, has already killed at least 459 people and injured more than 4,000, according to the latest WHO estimates.

Evacuation efforts are complicated as people remain trapped in their homes, especially in the capital Khartoum and the Darfur region, with residential areas and airports becoming battlegrounds.

Most Indians have been evacuated by sea, through the port of Jeddah.

V. Muraleedharan, India’s junior foreign minister, is in Saudi Arabia to coordinate the operation.

“We have received excellent support and cooperation from the Saudi government with regard to the arrangement in Jeddah and…support in ensuring that incoming transit from Port Sudan to Jeddah is smooth,” Kwatra said.

For observers, the swiftness of evacuation and the amount of Saudi assistance India has received have further strengthened relations between the two countries.

“Saudi Arabia’s swift action to evacuate Indian citizens from Sudan not only showcases the country’s commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of foreign nationals on its soil but also strengthens the already robust bilateral relations between the two nations,” Mohammed Soliman, the director of the Strategic Technologies and Cyber Security Program at the Middle East Institute, told Arab News.

It also “speaks volumes about the strength of the Indo-Saudi bilateral relations,” said Muddassir Quamar, Middle East expert and fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi.

“This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia has helped India in rescuing its citizens from a conflict zone,” he added.

“Saudi Arabia facilitated the efforts in Yemen in 2015 when India carried out Operation Raahat. The same bonhomie and cooperation are visible in Operation Kaveri now.”

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