'Operation Rahat' ends, Indian ships return home from Yemen

Mumbai/Kochi: INS Tarkash that participated in Operation Rahat, returned to a hero's welcome at Mumbai harbor here on Saturday, while two passenger ships with the last batch of Indians evacuated from Yemen reached Kochi, an official said.

It was preceded by the return of another ship, INS Mumbai, which returned here last Friday, with the two ships helping evacuate 1,783 Indians and 1,291 foreign nationals from 30 countries from the strife-torn Yemen over the past three weeks.

The ships' crew was greeted by senior officers of the command and the Indian Navy chief, Admiral R.K. Dhowan, will be interacting with the crew on Monday.

'Operation Rahat', which earned global admiration, was launched to rescue Indian nationals stranded in various parts of Yemen following a bloody civil war in that country, military intervention by Saudi Arabia and other nations, resulting in continuous aerial bombardments around that country.

The situation led to all airports and seaports in Yemen being crippled, barring Al Hodeidah, leaving few options for people wanting to leave the country.

The Indian diaspora in Yemen was estimated at around 4,000, many of them working and living there since decades.

A majority of them were located in and around Yemen's capital city of Sana'a that witnessed a lot of violence.

As the situation continued to deteriorate, the Indian government launched 'Operation Rahat' to evacuate all Indian nationals from there on March 30.

The Indian Navy deployed INS Sumitra, one of its latest offshore patrol vessels, to Aden and evacuated first batch of 349 Indians from there on March 31 and sailed them to Djibouti, across the Gulf of Aden.

The evacuation operation at Aden was punctuated by bombings, gunfire, disorder and pandemonium. But at Djibouti, they were received by Minister of State for External Affairs Gen.(Retd.) V. K. Singh, and later flown home by an Indian Air Force aircraft.

After dropping the first batch, INS Sumitra immediately sailed to Al Hodeidah port and helped evacuate another 317, mostly Indians and brought them to Djibouti on April 3.

Two Indian warships -- INS Mumbai and INS Tarkash -- meanwhile set sail from Mumbai, and two passenger ships -- MV Kavaratti and MV Coral -- from Kochi to Yemen.

The two warships guarded the two passenger vessels in the piracy infested waters of Gulf of Aden.

Since few other nations participated in the evacuation efforts, requests poured in from various countries to help evacuate their nationals, which the Indian side obliged.

In all, the ships undertook nine evacuation missions and evacuated 3,074 people, including 1,291 foreigners from more than 30 countries, between March 31-April 15.

After a majority of Indian nationals evacuated, the two naval ships returned home, while INS Sumitra will be re-deployed for its anti-piracy patrol duties.

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