New Delhi: Asserting that operation 'Sankat Mochan', which is being carried out to rescue stranded Indians from war-struck South Sudan, highlighted the Centre's 'pro-active approach', the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday stated that the evacuated Indians will land in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala tomorrow morning.
"#SankatMochan, Homeward Bound! 143 inc.10 women & 3 infants onboard as 1st C-17 Globemaster prepares to depart Juba," MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.
Talking in details about the operation, Swarup said in a press conference that first flight has already landed in Juba and the next one will be landing shortly, adding that the aim is to evacuate all Indian nationals who have expressed their interest in leaving south Sudan.
"The evacuation has been meticulously planned in coordination with the local authorities as well as the support of the Indian peace keeping contingent in the United Nation Mission in South Sudan. Soon after landing, general (retired) VK Singh met the Foreign minister of South Sudan Deng Alor Kuol. He almost met Vice President James Wani Igga," Swarup said.
The first aircraft will travel to Entebbe in Uganda for a refuelling halt of approximately three hours, following which they will depart for India, landing first in Thiruvananthapuram early on Friday morning and thereafter coming to Delhi.
Swarup stated that the entire operation has been conducted under the direct supervision of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who formed a high level task force to monitor the situation in South Sudan, which has deteriorated in the last few days.
"In our assessment this was an opportune time to arrange for the evacuation, especially since the ceasefire is holding and there is a lull in hostilities. Operation Sankat Mochan has underscored once again, the government's pro-active approach towards helping Indians in distress anywhere in the world," he added.
Meanwhile, with the 'Sankat Mochan' rescue team landing in Juba, Sushma Swaraj on Thursday called on all the stranded Indian nationals to move out quickly, adding that the evacuation might not be possible if the situation deteriorates.
"South Sudan - My colleague @Gen_VKSingh has landed in Juba to evacuate Indian nationals from there. All Indian nationals - We have sent two aircrafts. This is the right time. Pls move out of South Sudan," Swaraj said in a series of tweets.
Indians in South Sudan - Pls move out. We have sent two aircrafts for you. If situation worsens, we will not be able to evacuate u. Pl RT— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) July 14, 2016
Adding that in case the situation deteriorates the Indian nationals will not be evacuated, she reiterated her call to move out as quickly as possible, adding that two aircrafts are waiting to carry them out.
"Indians in South Sudan - Pls move out. We have sent two aircrafts for you. If situation worsens, we will not be able to evacuate you. Please ask all your relatives and friends in South Sudan to pl make use of this opportunity and move," she further tweeted.
Meanwhile, Operation Sankat Mochan is in full swing as the rescue team headed by Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh landed here and the process for the evacuation of the stranded Indians began.
Please ask all your relatives and friends in South Sudan to pl make use of this opportunity and move out. #SankatMochan— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) July 14, 2016
"Check-in formalities begin for evacuation as the first C-17 expected to land in Juba soon," MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.
The first IAF C17 Globemaster aircraft landed in Juba along with VK Singh, who met South Sudanese foreign affairs minister, Deng Alor Kuol.
"Indian Blue Berets posted in South Sudan as part of UNMISS lend a helping hand in evac'n effort. Close co-ord'n with local authorities. MOS @Gen_VKSingh meets with S Sudan FM Deng Alor Kuol," Swarup added.
Swaraj thanked Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar for the support towards the endeavour and also extended her best wishes to the Indian Air Force (IAF) who will be carrying out the operation.
"We are launching OP #SankatMochan to evacuate Indian nationals from South Sudan. My colleague @Gen_VKSingh is leading this operation.He will be accompanied by Secretary Amar Sinha, JS Satbir Singh and Director Anjani Kumar. Our Ambassador is South Sudan Srikumar Menon and his team is organising this operation on the ground," External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a series of tweets.
Two IAF C17's departed for South Sudan around 5 am on Thursday with VK Singh leading the operation.
The developments were set in motion after Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar appealed to Swaraj to help the Indian nationals stuck in the war-struck area.
".@SushmaSwaraj Ma'am request for speedy measures and actions to evacuate Indians stranded in Sudan. Prayers with them. #SaveIndiansInJuba," Kumar said in a tweet.
In response to this, Swaraj said, " Akshay Kumar ji - Pl do not worry. We are evacuating Indian nationals from Juba (South Sudan)."
Swaraj said the evacuation scheme is fully ready and if the situation worsens then the government will not delay and immediately evacuate Indians from there.
"The situation in South Sudan deteriorated suddenly in the past three days. We have constituted a task force to constantly study the emerging situation in South Sudan and to closely tab on the occurrences there. The task force held a meeting in the morning," Swaraj told ANI.
"There are around 600 Indians in South Sudan, of them 450 are in Juba (capital city of South Sudan) and nearly 150 are outside Juba. At present, the fighting is taking place in Juba," she added.
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir has ordered a ceasefire after days of intense fighting in Juba left more than 150 dead and many more injured since fighting broke out on Thursday.
The ceasefire announcement came as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called on the Security Council to impose an "immediate arms embargo" and targeted sanctions on leaders and commanders blocking implementation of the peace deal.
There was renewed fighting between the government and former rebel forces since Thursday in Juba.
The latest exchanges were apparently sparked by a shootout between President Kiir's and Vice President Riek Machar's bodyguards.