INS Tarkash which participated in the Operation Rahat returned to Mumbai harbour this morning while INS Mumbai had entered on 16 April 15. The ships’ crew was greeted by senior officers of the command and the Chief of Naval Staff will be interacting with the crew on Monday, 20April 15.
Earlier this year, a raging civil war in Yemen has left thousands of people homeless and stranded. Military intervention by Saudi Arabia and other nations have further complicated the situation with aerial bombardments continuing relentlessly across the country. The airports and seaports of the country, with the exception of Al Hodeidah, have been thrown out of gear leaving very little room for movement of people from the strife-torn country.
Prior to commencement of operations, Indian diaspora in Yemen was estimated to be approximately 4000 people working in all walks of life. Some of them had been working and earning a living in Yemen for decades. Most of them were located in and around the capital city of Sanaa,which had seen much violence and had been under relentless attack. With the situation in the country deteriorating rapidly, the Indian Government had ordered evacuation of Indian nationals from Yemen on 30 Mar 15.
The Indian Navy was first off the starting block, with INS Sumitra, one of the newest Offshore Patrol Vessels of the Indian Navy, being diverted immediately from her operational tasking in the Gulf of Aden. She immediately entered the Port of Aden and evacuated the first wave of 349 Indians on 31 Mar 15 and transported them to Djibouti.During the evacuation operations at Aden, the ship reported bombing and gunfire and a general disorder, pandemonium and unrest. At Djibouti, the evacuated Indians were met by Gen (Retd) VK Singh, the Minister of State for External Affairs, before they were airlifted to India by the Indian Air Force.
After the first group of evacuees was disembarked at Djibouti without losing any time, INS Sumitra after a quick operational turn around dispatched for the Port of Hodeidah on 02 Apr 15, from where the ship evacuated another 317 people (mostly Indian nationals) amidst similar unsecure conditions with bombing in the distance. This second wave was transported to Djibouti on 03 Apr 15.
In the meanwhile, two major warships i.e. guided-missile destroyer INS Mumbai and the guided-missile frigate INS Tarkash were sailed from Mumbai to Yemen on evening of 30 Mar 15. Two Indian passenger ships, MV Kavaratti and MV Coral, which normally ply between Kochi and the Lakshadweep Islands, were also sailed out from Kochi towards Yemen. IN Ships Mumbai and Tarkash were tasked to escort these passenger ships till Djibouti as the waters of the Gulf of Aden have been piracy-infested since 2008.
As the days progressed, the Port ofAden was engulfed in shelling and firing and permission for entry of ships was not accorded by the local authorities as fighting raged in the port city. As more than 300 Indians were known to be awaiting evacuation from Aden, INSMumbai was relieved of escort duties and was dispatched to reach off Aden,where she arrived in the wee hours of 04 Apr 15, while INS Tarkash continued to escort the passenger ships, which reached Djibouti on 05 Apr 15afternoon. In a well coordinated operation, 441 people, including foreign nationals, women, elderly persons and children were evacuated using boats from the Port of Aden to INS Mumbai, which was just outside the port and were evacuated to safety in Djibouti by the morning of 05 Apr 15.
After all ships were in area the evacuation cycle continued with close cooperation between various government agencies participating in the area and the three ships. As very few countries were participating in evacuation, requests poured in from the international community to evacuate their citizens from the war zone also. Keeping safety of life as paramount requirement, these ships, provided assistance to many foreign nationals in escaping to safety. In all these ship undertook a total of nine missions to various ports to evacuate over 3,000persons form war torn Yemen. This included nearly 1,300 people from over 30 foreign countries. A table depicting details of evacuations undertaken is as follows:-
With most Indian already evacuated,Indian Naval Ships Mumbai and Tarkash left Djibouti for Indian coast on PM 12April 2015, while INS Sumitra continued to remain in the area for the final evacuation mission conducted on 15 Apr 15 and for expeditious response to any contingency. INS Sumitra will also resume her Anti Piracy patrol duties and will thus be available in the area for quick response to any untoward development. INS Mumbai reached Mumbai Harbour on 16Apr 15 and INS Tarkash escorted the two MVs Kavaratti and Coral out of piracy ridden Gulf of Aden and returned Mumbai harbour on 18 Apr 15. The two MVs with evacuees on them entered Cochin on PM 18 April 15.
The operation was executed under the operational control of the Western Naval Command, headquartered at Mumbai under the directives and monitoring at Integrated Headquarters (Ministry of Defence) Navy. In an unprecedented show of synergy, the MEA and MoD (Inidan Navy and Indian Air Force) worked in absolute synchronisation and real-time information was exchanged with the ships on thescene through satellite communications.
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