Indian Navy launches operation ‘Samudra Setu’

A day after the government announced the measures to bring back Indians stranded abroad, the Indian Navy has launched a massive operation to bring them back from the countries situated in the Gulf and Indian Ocean regions. The Indian Navy has named this operation Operation ‘Samudra Setu’ (“Sea Bridge”) under the national effort to repatriate Indian citizens from overseas. Two huge tanker warships of the Indian Navy namely Jalashwa and Magar are currently en route to the port of Malè, capital of the island nation Maldives. These Indian naval tankers will reach Malè on 7 May and the evacuation from the Maldives will begin from 8 May as part of Phase-1 of operation ‘Samudra Setu’. At least two more warships of Shardul class are also ready to be launched. They will set sail after the orders from the Ministry of Defence, which is coordinating with the Ministry of External Affairs for these evacuations.

“Indian Navy was preparing some of its ships from the Western and the Eastern Naval Commands headquartered at Mumbai and Kochi respectively since the second phase of lockdown in India started last month. The commands were informed by the Naval Headquarter to prepare more than six ships to carry out such evacuation operations,” a Vice Admiral-rank officer from the Naval Headquarter informed The Daily Guardian on the condition of anonymity. The Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives, Sunjay Sudhir, and his team have already prepared a list of Indian nationals to be evacuated by naval ships and they will facilitate their embarkation after requisite medical screening. In the first such phase of evacuation, a total of 1,000 people are planned to be evacuated during the first trip, catering for Covid-related social distancing norms vis-à-vis the carrying capacity and medical facilities available onboard. The ships have been suitably provisioned for the evacuation operation.

The evacuated personnel would be provided the basic amenities and medical facilities during the sea-passage. In view of the unique challenges associated with Covid-19, stringent protocols have also been stipulated. As per the Standard Operating Protocols (SOP) formed by the home ministry for such evacuations, the evacuated personnel will be disembarked at Kochi, Kerala, and entrusted to the care of state authorities. This operation is being executed by the Indian Navy in close coordination with Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Home Affairs, Health and various other agencies of the state and Central governments. Later this week, the Navy will be deploying few more ships to evacuate Indians from the Gulf countries.

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