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New Delhi, April 29, 2020
The government has directed the Indian Navy to get their big sailing engines ready to bring back citizens stuck in the Gulf countries due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
India has imposed a travel ban both within the country and overseas till May 3 to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
The directions were issued last week during a meeting of three service chiefs and the Chief of Defence Staff with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Cabinet members.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had stated that the missions in the Gulf countries were liaisoning with local authorities to move Indian citizens to one place. The Indian missions there have opened the registration process for Indians who want to return.
The Indian Embassy in Qatar tweeted: "We are collecting data about the people requesting repatriation to India.... At this stage, the purpose is only to compile information. No decision or details yet on resumption of flights to India."
It further stated that as and when a decision is taken, the Embassy will make a clear announcement. "Please note that the form has to be filled separately for each individual, even if they are members of a family," the Embassy tweeted.
INS Jalashwa, an amphibious assault ship, and two Magar class tank-landing ships are being readied for the evacuation purposes.
These ships have started making arrangements as per the standard protocols laid out to deal with suspected COVID-19 cases like social distancing and sanitisation.
The Indian Navy has started removing non-essential equipment in order to accommodate the evacuees.
These three ships can bring back around 2,000 people while maintaining social distancing.
The Indian Air Force has been evacuating citizens from countries affected by COVID-19 frequently since January, which includes flights to China, Japan, Iran, Kuwait and Italy. The force has stated that it has kept C-17 Globemaster and C-130s on standby which can be used whenever they are required.
Apart from them, Air India flights are also being kept on standby to pick up stranded Indians from the Gulf countries.
Earlier, the Navy had carried out evacuation efforts in war-torn areas like Lebanon (2006) and Yemen (2015). Before that, evacuation was carried in 1990 during the first Gulf War between Iraq and Kuwait when around 1.5 lakh people were evacuated.