Friday, March 4, 2011

Orphaned Indians in Libya: Why is the government waiting?

"Another 1050 Indians will be evacuated today from Tripoli," tweeted India's Foreign Secretary, Nirupama Rao on March 2, 2011 - 15 days after the protests began in Libya.
For those of you who've been away from the news of late, people in Libya have been protesting against its ruthless dictator Col Muammar Gaddafi, much inspired by the Egyptian protests against President Hosni Mubarak. 

Courtesy: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
A child joins demonstrators protesting against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi 

The situation in Libya is now feared to be explosive. A civil war just ready to break out. But the Indian government it seems is waiting for more. It's just not urgent enough yet. Dead bodies will sure be easier to carry. 

While China has brought back its 36,000-odd nationals safe and sound from a violence-hit Libya, India hasn't been able to manage half that number. 

Around 3500 Indians, of the total 18,000 estimated to be in Libya have returned home safely. 7000 others wait for Indian warships to reach them in Alexandria, Egypt by March 8 next week, according to the navy chief. 

As per other media reports, evacuation plans have been extended to March 12.  That still leaves about 7500 Indians unaccounted for while the government waits in inaction.
"We are not in competition with China here. We're focussed on the task of bringing back our people safe and sound. Please let's not devalue this,” goes another tweet by Ms Rao. 
I considered finding explanations for the government's lapse. Does India not have enough military might to evacuate 18,000 men in emergency situations? India stands fourth on world military strength rankings. It must say something about the country's capability and military resources.

Is Libya not cooperating with Indian authorities to facilitate the evacuation? Not that it should be a reason, for Germany conducted covert operations to get back its citizens and China did an all out mission to get back its people. But that's not the case, since Mussa Kussa, Libya's Foreign Affairs Minister has extended support to India in its rescue plans so far.

Then is it the same old inefficiency, red tape and indifference of the government the cause for the delay?

I fear so. An Indian stranded in Libya recounts her horror story to the magazine, indiatoday "I was ashamed and unlucky to be Indian." She recounts how she saw people from other countries leave within the first few days since the protests began while the Indian Embassy kept ignoring them as they called.

BBC & Reuters estimates of other foreign nationals before the unrest in Libya and after the rescue operations - 

Before the unrest = 60,000
Evacuated = 400, by March 1, 2011 

Before the unrest = 1500
Evacuated = 700 by March 3, 2011

Before the unrest = 500
Evacuated = 350, by March 3, 2011

Before the unrest = 213
Evacuated = Almost all have been evacuated by Feb 25
Not a single Canadian had been airlifted by Canadian authorities :P They had hitched rides on allied country's flights and ships. 

Before the unrest = 30,000
Evacuated = Almost all have been evacuated. The government got most of the people out in just three to four days using huge air, sea and land operations. 

Before the unrest = 500-550
Evacuated = 400, by Feb 23

Before the unrest = 30,000
Evacuated = 9231 by March 3, 2011

Before the unrest = 25,000, 
Evacuated = 18,000, by March 3, 2011

Before the unrest = 600
Evacuated = Almost all. Has closed embassy and evacuated all staff by Feb 23. Soon followed  talks of sanctions against Libya.

You're right Ms Rao. We are in no competition with China here. We're not even close to Turkey. And we do devalue our people.


  1. If china has done it, and we haven't, you're probably right why. And Indian authorities aren't coercive enough. I don't know whether that's a good thing or not.

  2. Ya well, China is definitely stronger than us in terms of military strength and political will. So perhaps the comparison is not fair. BUT, if Turkey can do it, we sure can!!

    We don't need coercion, a strong will will do. A government that stands up for its people. More often than not, having a soft government has proved bad for India :(

  3. I would say..Yes its bad..we could have done better.
    we should also see that During the Kuwait war a few years back India has surpassed the super power US in bringing back its citizens to saftey in a more and efficient way than many of its western counter parts.
    I think it has more to do with the efficient docmentation and embassy support.
    Then again we could have dome much more and what ever is done there in a better and organized way.
    We could have repeated that..but then..there is always some hickups.
    With things flying around in Libya, I think the people there would be having a tough time tagging our citizens.
    Lets hope and pray that every innocent civilian is safe and return home to saftey

  4. I agree. Perhaps it is just the in'efficient documentation' and poor 'embassy support'. I came across this in the magazine, Outlook India - "Thousands of Indians had fled Kuwait in fear as the situation developed into a full-blown war and got stranded in deserts of Jordan. There was skepticism whether the airlifting could be done successfully in such circumstances." Yet it was. So even with a volatile situation in Libya, tagging people will be difficult, but achievable.

    But sadly, the problem this woman in the post above recounts was that the embassy was not responding even when Indians approached it, and not the other way round.


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