New Delhi: With the situation in Libya expected to become more violent in the days to come, India on Friday mapped out elaborate plans to evacuate most of its 18,000 nationals from the North African nation on a war footing by air, sea and land.
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao held a meeting with senior officials to review the evolving situation in Libya that focused on the nitty-gritty of evacuating Indian nationals from the violence-torn country.
A Boeing-747 with a capacity of 360 and an Airbus A-330 with a capacity of around 280-290 are likely to fly out from Mumbai and Delhi respectively in the small hours of Saturday for Tripoli, the Libyan capital. These will be the first of two such daily Air India flights that will operate till March 7, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said.
"They are expected to return to India late in the evening on Saturday," the External Affairs Ministry said, adding that officials of the Indian embassy in Tripoli are in touch with Indian community associations and will be at the airport to facilitate their departure.
The move to send the planes came after Libyan authorities gave clearance for the flights to land in Triploi.
Giving details of the evacuation plans, the ministry said Scotia Prince, the passenger ship chartered by the Indian government, is now expected to dock at Benghazi on Monday and bring ferry over 1,200 people to Alexandria on March 2. Air India flights will thereafter fly them to India.
Another ship, which has a capacity of around 750, will be deployed to carry Indians from Benghazi to Alexandria, from where they will be flown home, sources said. The Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) is in the process for chartering the ship.
The Indian Navy troop carrier INS Jalashwa and the destroyer INS Mysore are expected to leave Mumbai shortly for Libya to assist in the evacuation operations, the ministry said. The ships will take 10-11 days to reach Alexandria, government sources said.
An Indian Air Force IL-76 heavy-lift aircraft is also on standby to meet additional transportation requirements wherever needed, the ministry said.
Around 150 Indian nationals from Tobruk in Libya are likely to travel by road to Salloum which is near the border with Egypt. They are being assisted by the Indian embassy and are likely to cross over in two batches on February 26 and 28. At Salloum, they would be met by Indian embassy personnel from Cairo. Arrangements are being made for their travel onwards by road to Cairo and then by air to India.
The Indian embassies in Tripoli, Cairo and Tunis are working
round-the-clock and the government is doing its best to assist in the safe return of Indian nationals at the earliest, the ministry assured.
Libya has been hit by a wave of anti-government protests seeking the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, the country`s ruler for over four decades.
Even as the Indian government goes ahead with firming up logistical details of evacuating Indians from Libya, there were reports of "unscrupulous elements" trying to fleece Indians stranded in the country.
Against this backdrop, the External Affairs Ministry on Friday clarified that it was not charging Indian nationals who are being evacuated and stressed that cases of cheating should immediately be brought to its notice.
"It has come to notice that some unscrupulous elements are asking for payments/handling charges/facilitation fee etc., for arranging evacuation of Indian nationals, through the embassy of India in Libya," the ministry clarified.
"These activities are completely illegal and individuals engaged in them should be immediately reported to the law enforcement authorities," the ministry said.
"It is further emphasised that no payment or charge of any kind is being levied by the government, for the evacuation/assisted departure of any Indian national in Libya," the ministry added.