Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday (April 21) chaired a high-level meeting to take stock of the situation in Sudan, particularly concerning the safety of the 3,000 Indians in the violence-ravaged country.
According to an official statement, Modi, at a high-level meeting, instructed relevant officials to remain vigilant, closely monitor developments in Sudan and evaluate safety of Indian nationals there.
Modi also directed preparation of contingency evacuation plans, accounting for the rapidly shifting security landscape and viability of various options.
“During the meeting, Prime Minister Modi assessed the most recent developments in Sudan and received a first-hand report of the conditions on the ground, with specific focus on the safety of over 3,000 Indian citizens presently located throughout the country,” the statement said.
“The prime minister expressed his condolences on the passing away of an Indian national who tragically fell victim to a stray bullet last week,” it said.
The prime instructed officials to keep a continuous tab on the safety of Indians and provide all possible assistance to them.
“The Prime Minister further directed the preparation of contingency evacuation plans, accounting for the rapidly shifting security landscape and the viability of various options,” the statement said.
“The Prime Minister also emphasised the importance of maintaining close communication with neighbouring countries in the region, as well as those with significant numbers of citizens in Sudan,” it said.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Air Force and Navy chiefs, top officials of foreign and defence ministries and senior diplomats attended the meeting held virtually.
Earlier in the day, Jaishankar who is currently visiting Guyana, discussed the situation in Sudan with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
India on Thursday said the situation in Sudan is “very tense” and it is focusing on ensuring the safety and well-being of the Indian community, including working on contingency plans and possible evacuation.
Also read: EAM Jaishankar discusses Sudan situation with UN chief Guterres
An Indian is among over 300 killed so far, according to some reports, as fierce fighting has forced thousands to flee the capital city of Khartoum. Albert Augustine was working for the Dal Group and was hit by a stray bullet.
The conflict is a direct result of a vicious power struggle within the country’s military leadership. The clashes are between Sudan’s regular army and a paramilitary force called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Advise to citizens
Earlier, on Thursday, the government advised Indian citizens in Sudan to shelter in place; officials said plans had been put in place to ensure their safety.
“Our advice… they (Indian citizens) need to be where they are… and seek shelter where they are… rather than trying to go somewhere else till the situation improves,” foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
Bagchi declined to give the number and location of the stranded Indians citing security reasons, but did stress ‘everybody is safe and sound’.
However, according to Indian embassy, there are around 2,800 Indians in Sudan, in addition to a settled community of about 1,200 living there for nearly 150 years.
Potential evacuation scenarios
The government is working with nations like the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates on potential evacuation scenarios.
“India is in close contact… some countries have influence and information, others could guide us… and perhaps we could pool resources,” Bagchi said.
Also read: Siddaramaiah, Jaishankar in war of tweets over Karnataka tribals stranded in Sudan
Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister P Vijayan wrote a letter to the Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister requesting to ensure the safety and safe repatriation of Indian nationals stuck in Sudan, including those from Kerala.
Wrote to Hon’ble @PMOIndia Shri. @narendramodi requesting to ensure the safety and safe repatriation of Indian nationals stuck in civil war struck Sudan, including those from Kerala. Also, expressed gratitude for the steps taken by the @MEAIndia & @EoI_Khartoum in this regard.
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@pinarayivijayan) April 21, 2023
While expressing gratitude for the steps taken by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian mission in Sudan, Kerala CM said the state government has received information that several Keralites are stuck in remote areas of Sudan and need to be repatriated.