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IAF aircraft ready to fly back over 400 Indians still stranded in Afghanistan

The Indian Air Force is ready with its C-17 transport aircraft for flying to Kabul to bring home Indian nationals in strife-torn Afghanistan

The Indian Air Force is ready with its C-17 transport aircraft for flying to Kabul to bring home about 400-450 Indian nationals who are still stranded  in strife-torn Afghanistan.

However, the difficult task of moving these Indian citizens to the Kabul airport has to be sorted out first as the Taliban fighters have set up check-points on all roads and are controlling all movement in the city, a senior government official said.

India is working closely with the US on the issue so that these stranded citizens can fly out. The IAF aircraft will go to Kabul as soon as enough Indian nationals are able to move to the airport in the Afghan capital, he added.

A senior official lamented that the Indian embassy has issued five advisories since April this year that the situation in Afghanistan was extremely dangerous and there was an ever-present threat of being kidnapped. All Indian nationals had also been asked to register with the embassy. The last advisory issued by the embassy on August 10 had asked all Indian nationals to leave for home as there was a possibility of commercial flights being stopped. These individuals are reported to have been working for private companies.

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Two IAF C-17s had flown into Kabul on August 15 to evacuate Indian embassy personnel, including Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel tasked with guarding them. The diplomatic staff also had a problem in moving to the airport as the city is under Taliban control. Eventually the Taliban leadership was contacted in close co-ordination with the US and embassy staff was allowed to travel to the airport to board the IAF planes. A C-17 aircraft has the capacity to carry around 250 passengers.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had on August 18 said New Delhi is "very carefully" following the developments in Afghanistan and India’s focus is on ensuring the security and safe return of Indian nationals still in the war-torn country.

Jaishankar, addressing reporters after chairing a UN Security Council debate on peacekeeping under India's current UNSC Presidency, said: "the situation in Afghanistan is really what has been very much the focus of my own engagements here, talking to the UN Secretary-General and other colleagues who are here as well as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken."

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"At the moment we are, like everybody else, very carefully following developments in Afghanistan. I think our focus is on ensuring the security in Afghanistan and the safe return of Indian nationals who are there," he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has directed officials to ensure safe evacuation of all Indian citizens from Afghanistan and to provide refuge to Sikhs and Hindus seeking to flee the country amid the Taliban takeover.