Geopolitics

India’s Yemeni Evacuation
VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
1 vote cast
India’s Yemeni Evacuation, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
Issue Vol. 30.2 Apr-Jun 2015 | Date : 19 Jun , 2015

The United States military strategy published in 2012 has referred to India as an important player in the Indian Ocean and notes, “The United States is also investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean Region.” Perhaps what is interesting is that India is being given the status of ‘security provider’ and the US expects it to play a larger role in the Asia-Pacific region and be more proactive to support its ‘rebalance’ strategy.

India evacuated 5,600 people of which 4,640 were Indians and 960 nationals belonging to 41 countries…

It is raining ‘accolades’ for India. The international community has acknowledged India’s support in evacuating people from war-ravaged Yemen. The civil war in Yemen turned in favour of the Houthi rebels who successfully overthrew the government and took over key towns including the port city of Aden. Yemeni President Hadi fled overseas and the country witnessed fierce battles between the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the Houthi rebels.

According to media reports, India evacuated 5,600 people of which 4,640 were Indians and 960 nationals belonging to 41 countries including those from the US, France and Germany. The above figures also include 486 Bangladeshis who were brought safely to India for onward journey to Bangladesh by Biman Bangladesh Airlines special flights. Meanwhile, a US Embassy advisory of April 06, 2015 read, “The Indian government has offered to assist US citizens who want to depart Yemen for Djibouti. This potentially includes flights out of Sana’a and ships from Aden. US citizens wishing to take advantage of this opportunity should contact the Indian Embassy in Sana’a.”

The evacuation, codenamed ‘Operation Raahat’, involved the Indian Navy destroyer INS Mumbai, stealth frigate INS Tarkash and patrol vessel INS Sumitra. These ships evacuated people from the port of Aden where the streets in the town witnessed firing by tanks and rocket-propelled grenade attacks. Similarly, people were pulled out from the ports of Al Hodeidah and Ash Shi’hr. The Indian Air Force C-17 Globemaster-III aircraft made 12 shuttles from Djibouti to Mumbai and Kochi and 2,096 people were brought to India. The national carrier Air India aircraft undertook aerial sorties on a daily basis and successfully evacuated people. Ships belonging to the Shipping Corporation of India – MV Kavaratti and MV Corals sailed with the evacuees to India.

There were major air space restrictions in the Yemeni airspace due to the no-fly zone announced and controlled by the Saudi-led coalition. India, through diplomatic channel, approached Saudi Arabia and according to an Indian Ministry of External Affairs official, “It was much more perilous, the circumstances were more turbulent and diplomatically, it was a tightrope walk.”

In 2006, ‘Operation Sukoon’ by the Indian Navy was one of the largest Indian evacuations by sea…

The Indian media carried views of the people who were full of admiration for New Delhi’s evacuation efforts led by Minister of State General VK Singh amidst the disturbing and heart-rending situation in the country. The only Indian casualty in Aden was an employee onboard the Sierra Leone-flagged tanker Gulf Dove who was killed by a bomb blast.

Past Evacuation

The successful Yemeni evacuation operation comes in the backdrop of at least three similar operations undertaken in the past by the Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, Air India and the Shipping Corporation of India. During the 1990 Gulf War, 176,000 Indians were airlifted from Iraq and Kuwait by Air India; the evacuation was labelled as the “biggest ever air evacuation in history.” The operation also involved the Indian Air Force IL 76 aircraft and the Kerala government dispatched food items to Kuwait onboard a ship.

Likewise, in 2006, ‘Operation Sukoon’ by the Indian Navy was one of the largest Indian evacuations by sea. Four Indian naval ships INS Mumbai, INS Betwa and INS Brahmaputra and oil tanker INS Shakti returning after an overseas deployment successfully transported Indian nationals from Lebanon to Larnaca in Cyprus from where they were flown home by Air India. Significantly, the Indian Navy also evacuated Sri Lankan and Nepalese nationals who were stranded in Lebanon since their governments had been unable to mobilise evacuation.

In 2011, after mass protests against the military broke out in Libya and the protestors having gained control of major parts of the country, the Indian government executed Operation Blossom under which the Indian Navy dispatched INS Jalashwa, an amphibious transport dock ship, INS Mysore, a destroyer, and the fleet tanker the INS Aditya to the Mediterranean Sea. These ships, capable of carrying helicopters and detachments of marine commandos, successfully conducted evacuation of people. According to government figures, more than 16,000 people were evacuated through special flights, passenger and naval vessels. Similar evacuations were carried out in Egypt and Yemen on a relatively lower scale.

NEO and HA/DR Operations

The above operations are classified as Non-combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) and involve the evacuation of civilians from another country, generally due to a deteriorating security situation. The India Maritime Doctrine (IMD) 2009 notes, “There are increasing numbers of Indian citizens who work and reside in various parts of the world. They are important contributors to the progress of their countries of residence as well as to India. In view of the insecurity and instability in some parts of the world, Indian citizens there may require to be evacuated under arrangements and control of the Government of India, which could be done by civil or military means, by land, air or sea. The IN may be tasked with undertaking such Non-combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) as part of its diplomatic role.”

It is raining ‘accolades’ for India; the international community has acknowledged India’s support in evacuating people from war-ravaged Yemen…

The US Military Joint Publication 3-68 states, “Non-combatant Evacuation Operations (NEOs) are conducted to assist the Department of State (DOS) in evacuating non-combatants, non-essential military personnel, selected host-nation citizens and third country nationals whose lives are in danger from locations in a host foreign nation to an appropriate safe haven and/or the United States.” These operations involve the “swift insertions of a force, temporary occupation of an objective, and a planned withdrawal upon completion of the mission.” Likewise, the US Navy refers to its relief operations as Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) operations.

The NEO and the HA/DR operations are platform and human resource intensive. As far as the platforms are concerned, these should be highly flexible to change role from combat to sealift and perform a number of disaster assistance related tasks and missions. They should be able to traverse with speed from one area of operation to another and cross geographic boundaries without significant political restrictions. It is true that their own supplies make them self-sustaining and therefore, are available for long durations for relief operations with minimal replenishment. Furthermore, these platforms serve as command platforms for disaster relief supply chains and overall coordination of operations. Specially designed ships serve as hospitals and can also host emergency medical relief facilities.

The navies develop NEO and HA/DR skills through training both at the national and with other navies to prepare for coordinated or joint operations. Yet there is scope to improve their effectiveness in terms of response approach and collaboration with other agencies. Speaking at the World Humanitarian Summit Global Forum on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination, the Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen noted that the current HA/DR efforts are, “…unsustainable, ineffective and inefficient…” because there are as yet no military doctrines or SOPs, “…which spell out the clear deliverables of missions, the scope of the operations, and just as importantly, a clear transition to civilian organisations.”

During the 1990 Gulf War, 176,000 Indians were airlifted from Iraq and Kuwait by Air India – the biggest ever air evacuation in history…

India: Net Security Provider

The United States military strategy published in 2012 has referred to India as an important player in the Indian Ocean and notes, “The United States is also investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean Region.” Perhaps what is interesting is that India is being given the status of ‘security provider’ and the US expects it to play a larger role in the Asia-Pacific region and be more proactive to support its ‘rebalance’ strategy.

The above labelling for India comes in the backdrop of a number of Indian successes, among others, the Indian role in disaster relief operations such as the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and humanitarian assistance provide to Myanmar and Bangladesh during cyclones. The Indian Navy’s disaster relief assistance to Myanmar during Cyclone Nargis in 2008 which left 78,000 people dead/missing and affected 2.4 million others is noteworthy. Earlier, in 2007, four Indian Navy ships transported five thousand tonnes of rice in response to the devastation caused by ‘Cyclone Sidr’ in Bangladesh.

During the 2004 Tsunami, the Indian Navy deployed a number of ships, aircraft, helicopters, marines, Air Force personnel, troops and paramilitary/police forces in West Indonesia (Aceh) and Sri Lanka. These forces provided food, water and medical supplies to areas that were likely to remain inaccessible and in desperate need for weeks. With crucial assets like helicopters, support ships, hospital ships and organisational skills, the US military had the largest presence in the area.

At the multi-lateral level, the Indian Navy participates in the ADMM Plus, a set of multi-lateral maritime exercises conducted under the aegis of the ASEAN navies. The exercises also involve militaries from China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and the United States. The June 2013 ADMM-Plus exercise focussed on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief /Military Medicine (HA/DR/MM) and was hosted by Brunei Darussalam to ‘represent a concrete demonstration of practical cooperation’. The Indian Navy deployed the amphibious ship INS Gharial which is able to respond to various HA/DR mission and tasks.

In 2007, four Indian Navy ships transported five thousand tonnes of rice in response to the devastation caused by ‘Cyclone Sidr’ in Bangladesh…

The Indian Navy conducted Exercise Habu Nag with the US Navy in 2010. The aim of the exercise was to develop, “…operations skills based on exercise scenarios, to test the theoretical ability of Indian and US forces to jointly respond to specific situations’ including amphibious operations and HA/DR missions.” Indian Military officers were invited by the US Navy and embarked onboard the forward-deployed Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) comprising USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Denver (LPD 9), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), USS Tortuga (LSD 46) with Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. According to a US Marines official belonging to the Task Force 76, “We want to demonstrate how two different services [marines and the Navy] with two different goals mesh their operations and personnel to complete those goals.” According to an Indian Army officer, “We have learned a lot about the US Marine Corps and how they function and work with the naval element. We have the experience on land; what we hope to learn is how the Marines perform landings and facilitate more fluid interaction between our own naval and amphibious elements.”

Conclusion

The Indian success stories of NEO are good examples of using civil-military and diplomatic tools for evacuation operations from troubled countries/hot spots are laudable. The Indian diaspora is seen across the globe; People of Indian Origin (PIO) live on the Pacific Islands of Fiji, Mauritius in the Indian Ocean or on the distant lands of Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana in South America. Likewise, 21 million Indian nationals work overseas and remit nearly US$78 billion annually, a figure which exceeds that of any other country receiving from its overseas workers. Of particular interest is that nearly 25 per cent of overseas Indian workers are located in the Middle East and are employed in various professions such as nursing and hospital staff, nursing, construction, drivers and hospitality.

New Delhi’s strategic interests extend far beyond the Indian Ocean into the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans…

It will be useful to keep in mind that contingencies such as the NEO could happen in the future too and would demand maritime and air operations for humanitarian purposes. Since NEO operations are logistic intensive, merchant vessels would be needed to augment rescue operations as was the case in Yemen.

In essence, a sophisticated strategy and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will need to be put in place to respond to overseas crises which have a well-oiled system of channels for communications, diplomatic tools, speedy operations and above all, a robust naval and air NEO infrastructure. New Delhi’s strategic interests extend far beyond the Indian Ocean into the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans with places where the Indian diaspora and Indian workers are located. At another level, it will be prudent that the Indian Navy follow the events in turbulent and insecure regions of the world and as they unfold, bring to plan for NEO related operations.

Rate this Article
Collapse
VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
1 vote cast
India’s Yemeni Evacuation, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Dr Vijay Sakhuja

Director, National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi.

More by the same author

Post your Comment

*

2000characters left

 

One thought on “India’s Yemeni Evacuation

  1. The other evacuations did not get the same publicity as did the recent evacuation from Yemen. It is heartening that the Indian authorities who carry out these operations, are so successful in uncertain circumstances. The retired general Mr. Singh has won many accolades generally, and it makes me proud since he represented the army as a general.
    But, shouldn’t there be a separate branch dedicated to disaster relief, of the armed forces, who don’t engage in combat, in combat zones? The armed forces medical staff do take care of Indian soldiers in a manner. During disasters, there is an increasing supply of material relief, but getting personnel to aid in the relief operation seems to be a task in itself. The affected people must be aided to further aid themselves, in their hour of need.

More Comments Loader Loading Comments