Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan will be given priority once commercial flight service begins from Kabul, India said today – a day after the Taliban took control of the city. As panicked Afghans gathered at the airport to skip the war-torn country, India said it would “facilitate the repatriation to India of those seeking to leave Afghanistan”.
“The government will take all steps to ensure the safety and security of Indian citizens and our interests in Afghanistan,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi told reporters.
Referring to the situation in Kabul that is “worsening by the day”, the ministry said: “We are in constant contact with representatives of Afghan Sikhs and Hindu communities. We will facilitate the repatriation to India of those who want to leave Afghanistan” .
“There are also a number of Afghans who have been our partners in promoting our mutual development, education and people to people. We will support them,” added Mr Bagchi.
Commercial flights from Kabul airport have been suspended. “This has forced a pause in our repatriation efforts. We are waiting for the flights to resume to restart the process,” Mr Bagchi told reporters.
Afghan airspace was closed yesterday amid chaos at the Kabul airport, where US security forces fired into the air yesterday as the crowd became unmanageable. Five people died, the cause is not yet known. Later, the airport was placed under a security cordon.
India has evacuated its citizens and some Afghan nationals since the Taliban began advancing when US and NATO forces withdrew. “We are aware that there are still Indian nationals in Afghanistan who want to return and we are in contact with them,” Bagchi said today.
Sources have told NewsMadura that more than 200 Indians, including State Department employees and paramilitary soldiers stationed for their safety, have yet to be evacuated from Kabul. At Kabul airport, a plane is on standby to pick them up. But transferring them from the Indian mission to the airport proves a hurdle. Taliban have imposed a curfew in the city, sources said.