New Delhi: As fighting continued between rival factions in Sudan, the government on Thursday said it is in touch with Indian nationals in that country and “everybody is safe and sound”, as it urged any Indian national who has not reached out to the Indian Embassy in Khartoum to do so.
The government also said that contingency plans are in place, including for the evacuation of its citizens and diplomatic staff, if the situation requires it.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi also said that the situation in Sudan is very tense with fighting going on, especially so near where the Indian Embassy is located, with fighting raging on the streets. The staff of the Indian Embassy are working from their respective homes, as the fighting broke out on a weekend when they were in their homes.
He also said that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who is on a visit to Latin America and the Caribbean region, has stopped over in New York and is holding discussions, and would be meeting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to discuss the situation in Sudan.
The spokesperson declined to reveal the number of Indian nationals stuck in Sudan due to security reasons.
“We are keeping a very close watch on the evolving situation there. The conflict has broken out over the last 4–5 days. Our mission in Khartoum is in contact with the Indian community there, through multiple channels, both formal and informal; our embassy has issued several advisories; in New Delhi, we have set up a dedicated 24×7 control room for providing information and assistance, and we have shared the coordinates of the control room publicly,” the spokesperson said.
He also said that India is engaged with countries in the region and other countries that have a key role to play, particularly the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, and UAE, and EAM spoke to his counterparts from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and today with his Egyptian counterpart with regard to the situation.
The Indian Ambassador in Washington and High Commissioner in London are working with their respective host governments, he said, adding that India is also engaging with the various UN bodies that have a significant presence on the ground in Sudan.
“The situation on the ground continues to remain quite tense, rendering any movement very risky. Currently, our focus is the safety and well-being of the individuals wherever they are located.”
He also said that the Indian Embassy is in touch with the Indians there, and the situation is very fluid.
“Let me emphasise, we understand the difficulties people are facing, the situation on the ground is quite fluid, there are incidents happening at various locations; we are advising the community members who are reaching out.”
The Indians who have contacted the Embassy have been given a form to fill out with their details, he said, adding that “the power is patchy, the internet connection is patchy”.
To a question on the number of Indians, he said: “We don’t want to get into details of how many and in what locations for security reasons. We feel it could affect the safety and security of the people. We want to assure you we are in touch with them, we are calling them.”
Referring to social media posts by some politicians on Indians stranded in Sudan, he said: “I see a number of social media posts saying, oh, so and so has not been contacted, or from that tribe has not been.. I assure you that they have been contacted. Even as I came in, we’ve been trying to reach them in their local languages, and trying to reassure them that perhaps it is best that they stay wherever they are, or somewhere close by, as movement on the roads is unsafe.”
“Some of the Indians are in hotels, some in housing. Please remember this happened very quickly and people were not able to find any options; but yes, we are in touch with them, and everybody is safe and sound.”
“I wanted to emphasise, Our embassy has really been pushing in terms of trying to track every Indian who has registered, trying to build a database of information, trying to counsel them, trying to tell them what should they do in terms of remaining safe.
“Our advice, let me reiterate again– At this point, they need to be where they are and seek shelter where they are rather than go somewhere else, till the situation improves; this is an evolving situation, we are monitoring it very closely, ” he added.
On evacuation plans, he said that it would depend on the situation on the ground. “We will ideally like the fighting to stop so that we don’t have to evacuate, but if we have to do that, we always have contingency plans ready, and even now to tackle the situation we have plans in readiness, but the evacuation will depend on which airport is operational and whether people can be moved via road. It is premature to speak of it, as it depends on the security situation.”
He said the Indian Embassy in Khartoum is located just opposite the airport, “that zone has seen a lot of fighting and there has been some shelling”.
On reports of an attack on the Indian Embassy, he said that there is a lot of local fighting going on there. “At the moment there is nobody in the embassy, the staff is working from elsewhere, and contacting people,” he said, adding they have no news of whether the embassy has been attacked.