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Worried about flyers' safety, India unlikely to resume Afghanistan flights soon

While most nations have completed evacuation from Afghanistan, many people have been left behind

September 07, 2021 / 01:58 PM IST

India is unlikely to resume flights to Afghanistan in the days to come as the government is apprehensive about the safety and security of the crew and passengers, sources have told CNN-News18.

Evacuation flights may pull out Indian nationals or “persons of interest” from Afghanistan but these would only go to Kabul once safety and Air Traffic Control (ATC) check had been done by a third country officially, the sources said.

Sending flights to other stations for evacuations as well is out of the question, they said. Reports said on September 6 that Taliban cadre were taking money from flights before their release from Mazar-E-Sharif.

In another report, news agency Bloomberg reported the Taliban as saying that international flights from Afghanistan would resume shortly.

At least 170 people were killed on August 26 when a suicide bomber struck the Kabul airport that was teeming with people desperate to escape the Taliban.

While most countries have completed their evacuation from the war-ravaged country, taken over by the Taliban in mid-August, reports say many have been left behind.

The government recently said that ensuring evacuation of citizens willing to leave Afghanistan was its top priority but that there had been no development on the front as the Kabul airport is not operational.

“We have been prioritising evacuation. Currently, Kabul airport is not functional. We can revisit this question when the airport is functional,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

The ministry has reiterated that it is in touch with representatives of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities in the country and would facilitate the repatriation of those who wish to leave.

At a press conference on August 27, Bagchi said India had evacuated more than 550 people on six flights through Kabul or via Dushanbe in Tajikstan, which included 260 Indians (including embassy and other personnel), and the rest being Afghans and other officials.

Asked about the people left behind, Bagchi said the vast majority of Indians who had sought to come back had, adding that those who remained would be brought back soon; a number that kept changing with requests coming in.

On being asked whether evacuated Afghan nationals would be given a ‘refugee’ status, the MEA spokesperson said they were being kept on an emergency visa basis for now, which was valid for six months. He said the situation would be assessed after the period ended due to its evolving nature.

News agency Reuters reported on September 6 that about 1,000 people, including Americans, were stuck in Afghanistan for days, awaiting clearance for their charter flights to leave, quoting an organiser who blamed the delay on the US state department.

Exasperated by the delays, the organiser said the state department had failed to tell the Taliban of its approval for flight departures from the international airport in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif or validate a landing site.

“They need to be held accountable for putting these people’s lives in danger," said the organiser, who sought anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

‘Need Humanitarian aid corridors at airports’

Qatar, which has emerged as a vital player in war-torn Afghanistan in recent years, hopes to see humanitarian aid corridors at Afghan airports within 48 hours, Doha’s special envoy to Afghanistan has said.

The tiny Gulf nation has worked with the Taliban to quickly reopen Kabul’s airport for humanitarian aid. The country sent a plane carrying food and medical goods to Kabul, part of an effort to provide badly needed supplies to Afghanistan as the country faces a halt in most Western aid, the Associated Press reported.

Qatar’s foreign ministry said the plane had landed at Kabul airport on September 5 with 26 tons of medical and food aid, the second such shipment in as many days.

The Gulf state, which has housed several Taliban leaders and also hosted their peace talks with the US, is expected to play an important political role in what comes next for Afghanistan.

Moneycontrol News
first published: Sep 7, 2021 01:58 pm