New Delhi: India on Thursday evacuated more than 146 of its nationals, stranded in war-torn South Sudan's capital city Juba, who will reach Delhi on Friday after a halt in Thiruvananthapuram.
However, the evacuation exercise faced a hurdle as many Indians, who had registered with the External Affairs Ministry for leaving South Sudan, refused to return, despite an appeal by Minister Sushma Swaraj on Twitter asking them to move out. "If situation worsens, we will not be able to evacuate you," she had further tweeted.
Indians in South Sudan - Pls move out. We have sent two aircrafts for you. If situation worsens, we will not be able to evacuate u. Pl RT
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) July 14, 2016
"Operation #SankatMochan Safely out of the danger zone. The first flight makes a technical halt at Entebbe, Uganda," Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh tweeted.
It was not immediately known how many Indians were onboard the second aircraft.
Earlier briefing reporters, MEA Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the aim is to evacuate all the Indian nationals who have expressed their interest in leaving.
"The evacuation has been meticulously planned in coordination with the local authorities as well as the support of the Indian peace keeping contingent in UNMISS. Soon after landing, Singh met the Foreign Minister of South Sudan Deng Alor Kuol. He also met Vice President James Wani Igga."
Both aircraft first travelled to Entebbe, Uganda for a re-fuelling halt of approximately three hours, Swarup said, adding from Entebbe they will depart for India, first landing in Thiruvananthapuram early on Friday morning and thereafter coming to Delhi.
"This entire operation has been under the direct supervision of Swaraj who had formed a high level task force to monitor the situation in South Sudan," he added.
In government's assessment this was an opportune moment to arrange for the evacuation, especially since the ceasefire is holding and there is a lull in hostilities.
Singh is accompanied by Amar Sinha, secretary (economic relations) in the external affairs ministry, joint secretary Satbir Singh and director Anjani Kumar.
According to the ministry, there are around 600 Indians in South Sudan, of them 450 are in Juba and nearly 150 are outside the capital.
South Sudan is witnessing heavy fighting between former rebels and government soldiers in several parts of the city.