October 13, 2023
NEW DELHI – India has launched “Operation Ajay” to facilitate the return of Indian citizens who wish to return from Israel in the wake of the outbreak of hostilities in the region, the government said on Thursday.
“As announced by the external affairs minister yesterday, Operation Ajay has been launched to facilitate the return from Israel of our citizens. The first charter flight will be reaching Tel Aviv later tonight to pick up the Indian citizens and is likely to return to India tomorrow morning,” the foreign ministry spokesman, Arindam Bagchi, said at a media briefing.
It may be noted that there are nearly 18,000 Indians in Israel, including about 1,000 students.
Bagchi said more flights would be sent to Israel, depending upon the evolving situation in the Jewish state. The foreign ministry, he said, was in touch with the Indian embassy in Tel Aviv and neighbouring countries, like Jordan, Syria, and Egypt.
Bagchi also advised Indians stranded in Israel to follow advisories issued by the Indian mission.
“We are keeping a close watch on the situation,” the spokesman said, while not ruling out the possibility of the Indian Air Force playing a role in the evacuation exercise.
He said the government was aware of the case in which a woman from Kerala was injured in the attack by Hamas. The person was in hospital while there was no report of any Indian casualty so far.
Earlier on Thursday, the foreign minister, S Jaishankar, chaired a meeting to review preparations for Operation Ajay. The registration for Indian citizens began on Thursday, government sources said.
After the meeting, Bagchi, in an X post, said: “EAM @DrSJaishankar chaired a meeting today to review preparations for #OperationAjay. #TeamMEA stands ready to assist our citizens to return home.” The foreign secretary, Vinay Kwatra, was among those present at the meeting. The Indian ambassador to Israel, Sanjeev Singla, also attended it via videoconferencing.
Meanwhile, the Indian embassy in Israel shared an update on social media stating that the deputy chief of mission, Rajiv Bodwade, and the Indian commercial representative, Naveen Ramakrishna, had interacted with Indian companies in Israel to extend all possible help.
In a statement, the embassy said: “DCM Rajiv Bodwade and commercial representative Naveen Ramakrishna interacted with Indian companies in Israel to help clear their doubts and extend all possible help.”
Israel’s consul general in Mumbai, Kobbi Shoshani, praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for launching Operation Ajay.
Shoshani further emphasized that Israel loved and respected the Indian business community in Israel as it contributed a lot to their economy. “The Indian business community that we love and respect so much contributes to our economy in a big way,” he said.
Additionally, Shoshani stressed that the Israeli government is doing its best to assist the Indian embassy in Tel Aviv in Operation Ajay.
As the war between Israel and Hamas intensifies, the Indian Embassy in Israel has set up two 24-hour helpline numbers – +972-35226748 and +972-543278392 – and an email – email@example.com – for Indian citizens who need assistance amid the ongoing conflict or wish to register with the mission.