New Delhi, May 2 : As India has decided to evacuate stranded citizens in Gulf nations because of COVID lockdown, 30 Air Force aircraft and 14 naval ships have been put on standby for the massive evacuation exercise, sources said.
The Navy and Air Force are fully geared to start evacuation operations the moment the go-ahead is given.
Sources said the Navy would be looking at evacuating Indians from Gulf countries and the Air Force from other nations, including European countries.
The bulk of the evacuees will be accommodated in three earmarked ships in the first phase, the rest will follow as per requirement.
On Friday Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal R.K.S.
Bhadauria and Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh said they are ready and are awaiting the go-ahead.
Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria said that close to 30 aircraft are on standby while Admiral Karambir Singh said whenever the go-ahead is given the Navy will swing into action.
Earlier the Navy had put three ships on standby, including INS Jalashwa with maximum capacity, but now with estimates indicating that the number of evacuees could be higher, more have been added to the evacuation fleet.
INS Jalashwa, an amphibious assault ship, and two Magar class tank-landing ships are being readied for evacuation purposes.
These ships have started making arrangements as per the standard protocol laid out to deal with suspected Covid-19 people such as social distancing and sanitization.
Indian Navy has started removing non-essential equipment in order to accommodate the evacuees.
These three ships can bring around 2,000 people while maintaining social distancing.
The Air Force has already evacuated 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 they have kept C-17 Globemaster and C-130s on standby which can be used whenever required.
Apart from them, Air India flights are also being kept on standby to pick stranded Indian from Gulf countries.
Earlier, Navy had carried out evacuation 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 where around 1.5 lakh people were evacuated.
(Sumit Kumar Singh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)