On Tuesday, External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar made a statement on the prevailing situation in Ukraine to the Rajya Sabha.
"At the direction of the PM, we launched Operation Ganga, thereby undertaking one of the most challenging evacuation exercises during an ongoing conflict situation. Our community was dispersed across Ukraine, posing its own logistical challenges," Jaishankar said.
He added that, "The exercise was undertaken at a time when military actions, including airstrikes and shelling, were underway. It involved movement in a war-torn situation in a large country, at times over a 1000 kms and required exiting border checkpoints clogged by an estimated 26 lakh refugees."
Having highlighted the extremely challenging scenario, Jaishankar said that the evacuation required a "whole of government" and praised various government agencies as well as private airlines for their support.
"Entire exercise involved a whole of Government approach, with the PM himself chairing review meetings almost on a daily basis. At the Ministry External Affairs, we monitored evacuation operations on a 24/7 basis. We got excellent support from all concerned ministries and organisations, including the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Defence, National Disaster Response Force, Indian Air Force and private airlines," he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on 26 February 2022 during which among pressing issues, the safety of students was brought up.
The first evacuation flight from Bucharest reached New Delhi with 249 nationals at around 2.55am Indian Standard Time (IST) on 27 February.
Four union ministers namely – Hardeep Singh Puri, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kiren Rijiju and V.K. Singh were sent the next day to the neighboring countries to assist in prioritizing coordination with local authorities.
The Indian Air Force and multiple private airlines (Air India, IndiGo, Air India Express, SpiceJet, AirAsia India and Go First) provided logistical support.
Between 24 February and 7 March, the Indian Prime Minister talked to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin multiple times about the situation, during which among overarching issues, evacuation was conveyed and assistance acknowledged.
India had about 20,000 Indian nationals in Ukraine, out of which just over 18,000 were students. Approximately 16,000 Indian citizens were present in Ukraine at the moment of commencement of Russian invasion.
By 5 March, about 18,000 had crossed the border of Ukraine. However emergency evacuation has been requested by students still in Ukraine, such as in Sumy.
Following a "Leave Kharkiv Immediately" embassy advisory on 2 March, the Indian Ministry of Defence released a survival advisory for those still in Ukraine and specifically Kharkiv. By 6 March about 16,000 Indians had been flown to India in 76 flights.
On 8 March the MEA said that all students in Sumy had been moved, facilitated by humanitarian corridors.