After the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Monday said it will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave the war-torn country.
MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated significantly in the last few days. "We've been issuing periodic advisories for the safety and security of Indian nationals, including calling for their immediate return to India," he added.
"We had circulated emergency contact numbers and had also been extending assistance to community members. We are aware that there are still some Indian nationals in Afghanistan who wish to return and we are in touch with them," Bagchi further said.
He added that there are also a number of Afghans "who've been our partners in the promotion of our mutual developmental, educational and people to people endeavours". "We will stand by them," the MEA spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Arindam Bagchi said the commercial operations from Kabul airport have been suspended today. "This has forced a pause in our repatriation efforts. We are awaiting the resumption of flights to restart the process," he added.
Air India cancelled its Delhi-Kabul-Delhi flight that was scheduled to be operated on Monday and carriers running flight services between India and the western countries avoided the Afghan airspace after it was declared "uncontrolled" by the Kabul airport authorities, senior officials said.
The Air India flight was the only commercial service scheduled to be operated between India and Afghanistan on Monday. The national carrier is the only airline that has been operating flights between the two countries.
According to a NOTAM (notice to airmen) issued by the Kabul airport authorities on Monday, the Afghan airspace has been released to the military and any aircraft transit through it "will be uncontrolled".
In another NOTAM, it was stated that the civilian side of the Kabul airport has been shut down until further notice.
Therefore, all carriers operating flights between India and the western countries such as Air India, United Airlines and Terra Avia had to reroute their flights on Monday so as to avoid the Afghan airspace.
According to a report, over 200 Indians including Foreign Ministry staff and paramilitary soldiers, tasked for their protection, are yet to be evacuated from Kabul.
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN AFGHANISTAN?
The Taliban, a militant group that ran the country in the late 1990s, have again taken control.
The US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 ousted the insurgents from power, but they never left. After they blitzed across the country in recent days, the Western-backed government that has run the country for 20 years collapsed. Afghans, fearing for the future, are racing to the airport, one of the last routes out of the country.
WHY ARE PEOPLE FLEEING THE COUNTRY?
They’re worried that the country could descend into chaos or the Taliban could carry out revenge attacks against those who worked with the Americans or the government.
Many also fear the Taliban will reimpose the harsh interpretation of Islamic law that they relied when they ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Back then, women were barred from attending school or working outside the home. They had to wear the all-encompassing burqa and be accompanied by a male relative whenever they went outside. The Taliban banned music, cut off the hands of thieves and stoned adulterers.
The Taliban have sought to present themselves as a more moderate force in recent years and say they won’t exact revenge, but many Afghans are skeptical of those promises.
(With AP inputs)
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)