Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan will be given priority once commercial flight service begins from Kabul, India said today — a day after Taliban took control of the city. As panic-stricken Afghans gathered at the airport to skip the war-torn country, India said it would “facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan”.
“The government will take all steps to ensure the safety and security of Indian nationals and our interests in Afghanistan,” foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told reporters.
Pointing to the situation in Kabul that’s “deteriorating by the day”, the ministry said, “We are in constant touch with the representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities. We will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan”.
“There are also a number of Afghans who have been our partners in the promotion of our mutual developmental, educational and people to people endeavours. We will stand by them,” Mr Bagchi added.
Commercial flight operations from the Kabul airport have been suspended. “This has forced a pause in our repatriation efforts. We are awaiting the resumption of flights to restart the process,” Mr Bagchi told reporters.
Afghan airspace was shut yesterday amid chaos at the Kabul airport, where US security forces fired in the air yesterday as the crowds became unmanageable. Five people died – the cause is not known yet. Later the airport was placed under a security cordon.
India has been evacuating her citizens as well as some Afghan nationals since Taliban started advancing as US and NATO forces withdrew. “We are aware that there are still some Indian nationals in Afghanistan who wish to return and we are in touch with them,” Mr Bagchi said today.
Sources have told NDTV that more than 200 Indians — including Foreign Ministry staff and paramilitary soldiers stationed for their security — are yet to be evacuated from Kabul. An aircraft is on stand-by at the Kabul airport to pick them up. But transferring them from the Indian mission compound to the airport is proving a hurdle. Taliban has enforced a curfew in the city, sources said.