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India evacuated 140 foreign nationals from 18 countries; students received ‘conflicting’ advice from universities in Ukraine: Jaishankar

Indian students in Ukraine had received “conflicting advice” and were “actively discouraged” by some universities from leaving the country in the days leading to the war last month

Mar 16, 2022
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Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar (File)

Indian students in Ukraine had received “conflicting advice” and were “actively discouraged” by some universities from leaving the country in the days leading to the war last month, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said, as he acknowledged students’ initial reluctance amid “confusing political signals” that lead to the challenging evacuation operation under which the authorities evacuated around 22,500 Indians from war-torn Ukraine, apart from 140 foreign nationals from around 18 countries, including those from Nepal and Bangladesh.   
 
Jaishankar's remark came on Tuesday while briefing lawmakers in Parliament about the government’s Operation Ganga, the moniker given to the evacuation operation in 80 planes chartered by the government, the only such evacuation operation from Ukraine by any country.

“Public urgings not to be taken in by alarmism and reports of force withdrawals created a confusing picture. The net result was that about 18000 Indian citizens were caught in the midst of conflict when it began,” the minister said in the upper house of Parliament. 

“Some universities actively discouraged and showed reluctance to offer online courses,” he informed Parliament. This, he said, added the students’ “natural reluctance” to leave their studies.

Jaishankar's statement came as the government had faced some criticism regarding the handling of the whole situation, and possible lapses in the initial assessment of the situation.  Critics claim the government’s delayed response had put the life of Indian students at risk. 

“In the period leading to 24 February, the political signals were confusing as well,” he said, adding “the hostilities placed the Indian community of 20000 plus in direct danger.” Many Ukrainian nationals who were the family members of Indians were also evacuated during the operation.

The evacuation from Kharkiv and Sumy in the eastern part was the “most challenging” part of the operation, Jaishankar said, adding both the places witnessed heavy shelling and airstrikes. Later, the efforts succeeded due to the “personal intervention” of Prime Minister  Modi, when he dialed the leaders of both Ukraine and Russia. 

“Our Embassy personnel, these officials have gone to extraordinary lengths in difficult circumstances to ensure that Operation Ganga was successful,” the minister said, while also acknowledging the cooperation extended by the neighboring countries like Poland and Romania. 

Speaking on India’s position on the ongoing conflict, Jaishankar said, “We have reiterated at the highest levels of our leadership to all parties concerned that there is no other choice but the path of diplomacy and dialogue.”

“The global order is anchored on international law, UN Charter, and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of states,” Jaishankar said. 

On the effects of the conflict, he said the war has “major economic implications.” He further added, “Its impact on energy and commodity prices is already visible. The disruption of the global supply chain is expected to be significant.”

(SAM)

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