With 72-hour ceasefire in place, India scrambles to evacuate citizens from Sudan
New Delhi: Indian officials on Tuesday began efforts to evacuate 3,000 Indian nationals from Sudan, with Saudi Arabia becoming the main evacuation ground for stranded citizens after the regular army and rebel paramilitary forces agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire.
A small number of Indian nationals have been evacuated from Sudan by Saudi Arabia and France over the past few days, and hundreds remain stranded in various parts of the country, mainly in the capital Khartoum. About 500 Indians have gathered at Port Sudan, the country’s main port, 800 km from Khartoum.
Forces loyal to Sudan’s army chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and General Mohamed Hamdan Daghlo, who heads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), agreed to a 72-hour nationwide ceasefire from midnight. On April 24. With the ceasefire in effect, Indian officials were scrambling to find the best way to evacuate citizens stranded in Sudan, people familiar with the matter said.
Although two C-130J medium-lift transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) were grounded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Sunday, it was not immediately clear whether they would be able to fly into the airport in Khartoum. People said they were damaged in heavy fighting.
“The damage caused by the airport needs to be assessed. Besides, air traffic control facilities will be required for safe operation of flights,” said one of the above mentioned.
The Indian side is also looking at the possibility of operating flights from military air bases located near Khartoum. “There is a military air base an hour’s drive from Khartoum, which is one of the options being considered,” the person said.
The US has used heavy helicopters to evacuate its diplomats and nationals from Khartoum in view of the fighting near the airport.
The Indian Navy’s patrol ship INS Sumeda has already reached the port of Sudan and can be used to ferry Indian nationals to Saudi Arabia through the Red Sea. “Indians gathered at Port Sudan can be taken to Jeddah and from there airlifted to India,” the person said.
Once fighting erupted in Sudan on April 14, Saudi Arabia, which has established close ties with the Indian side, is expected to play a key role in evacuation efforts, the people said. Due to its proximity to Sudan, Indians evacuated from the war-torn country could be flown or sea-bound to Saudi Arabia, where they could be picked up on flights that could bring them home, the people said.
UN According to agencies, more than 420 people have been killed and more than 3,700 injured in the fighting so far. Tens of thousands of people, including Sudanese and foreign nationals, have fled the country in the past few days, many of them heading to Egypt, Chad and South Sudan.
There are severe shortages of food, water, medicine and fuel in Sudan, causing the prices of these commodities to rise. Many areas in Khartoum remain without electricity and have limited communications, including internet connectivity.
Despite a ceasefire enforced on Tuesday, there were reports of fighting between warring factions in West Darfur.
The United States said on Tuesday it would coordinate with regional and international partners and Sudanese civilian stakeholders to help build a team to negotiate, conclude and implement a permanent cessation of hostilities and implement humanitarian arrangements. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Sudan will continue to work with parties and partners towards the “shared goal of a return to civilian government in Sudan”.