The government has told opposition parties that the immediate priority is the evacuation of all Indians stranded in Afghanistan, sources said on Thursday afternoon. This was after an all-party meet called by Prime Minister Modi to brief the opposition on the “critical” Afghanistan situation.
Around 15,000 people have contacted the government seeking assistance in fleeing from Afghanistan, sources said, adding that Foreign Minister S Jaishankar had also briefed the opposition about evacuation steps being taken by other nations, such as the United States, Russia and China.
India is trying to evacuate as many people as possible from Afghanistan, Mr Jaishankar was quoted as saying by news agency PTI. He underlined that evacuating Indians is the “top priority”.
Sources also said the government had told opposition leaders the Taliban broke promises made to the United States and its allies in Doha in the weeks up to its occupation of Kabul.
Last week – before the Taliban took control of Kabul – news agency Reuters said the Islamist group had agreed to a two-week cease-fire in exchange for President Ashraf Ghani’s resignation and the start of talks on setting up a transitional government.
Apart from Mr Jaishankar, the meeting was attended by Union Minister and Rajya Sabha MP Piyush Goyal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi.
Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge (Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha) and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (party chief in the Lok Sabha) were among the opposition leaders present, as were NCP chief Sharad Pawar, the DMK’s TR Baalu, and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda.
India, which has been allowed to operate two flights per day from Kabul, has evacuated over 300 of its citizens so far. A similar number of citizens from other nations have also been brought back.
However, evacuations have been slowed by the volatile security situation in and around the airport in Kabul, control of which is split between occupying Taliban forces and the United States.
The Foreign Ministry has said the government is committed to their safe return, adding that the main challenge is the operational status of the airport. Evacuations have also been affected by the fact that some Indians had not registered on arrival in Kabul, making it difficult to locate them.
The last batch of evacuation flights from Kabul landed in India on Sunday – a special Air Force plane carrying around 168 people, including 107 Indian citizens, was among those flights.
The evacuees also included some Indian Sikhs who had taken refugee at a gurudwara in Kabul.
An Afghan woman who was on the Air Force flight told ANI the situation in her country was “deteriorating”, and that the Taliban had burned down her house.
Indians were also flown in on three other flights – operated by Air India, IndiGo and Vistara. These flights were routed via Tajikistan and Qatar, due to safety concerns over some flight paths.
On August 17, the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security to monitor the safe evacuation of Indians stranded in Afghanistan.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan 10 days ago, after President Ashraf Ghani fled and the group walked into Kabul with no opposition. This was after a staggeringly fast rout of major cities, and following two decades of war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
Since then at least 20 people have died at Kabul airport as thousands rush to flee the country, according to a report by Reuters that quoted an unnamed NATO official.
With input from PTI, Reuters