New Delhi, Aug 17 (UNI) India on Tuesday flew back home its ambassador and other staffers from the embassy in Kabul in a “difficult and complicated exercise” and assured that it is committed to the safe return of all Indians from Afghanistan.

The External Affairs Ministry said it is also extending visa services to Afghan nationals.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar tweeted that bringing back Indian Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon and the embassy staff from Kabul, which has been taken over by the Taliban, was a difficult and complicated exercise and thanked all those who helped to make it possible.

“Movement of the Indian Ambassador and the Embassy staff from Kabul to India was a difficult and complicated exercise. Thank all those whose cooperation and facilitation made it possible,” he said.

Earlier, Jaishankar had spoken with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during which he had underlined the “urgency of restoring airport operations in Kabul”, which were suspended on Monday following chaos at the airport.

“Discussed latest developments in Afghanistan with @SecBlinken. Underlined the urgency of restoring airport operations in Kabul. Deeply appreciate the American efforts underway in this regard,” Jaishankar said.

MEA said this morning that the Indian envoy and the staff in Kabul were being flown back. “In view of the prevailing circumstances, it has been decided that our Ambassador in Kabul and his Indian staff will move to India immediately,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.

The development came after the Taliban takeover of Kabul on Sunday and the fall of the Ashraf Ghani government, which has led to chaos in that country.

The US Air Force and US Marines are in Kabul airport to fly back their people out of Afghanistan.

After the Indian ambassador and the staff flew back to India, the government, in a press statement, said it is committed to the safe return of all Indians from Afghanistan.

MEA said it has already received requests from Afghan Sikh and Hindu community leaders of Afghanistan to come to India and is in touch with them.

It said the main challenge for travel to and from Afghanistan is the operational status of Kabul airport, where commercial operations were suspended on Monday.

“This has been discussed at high levels with our partners, including by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken," the statement said.

The Government of India is committed to the safe return of all Indian nationals and will institute flight arrangements once Kabul airport is opened for commercial operations, the statement said.

Referring to the return to India of the Indian ambassador, the statement said: “In view of the prevailing situation in Kabul, it was decided that our Embassy personnel would be immediately moved to India. This movement has been completed in two phases and the Ambassador and all other India-based personnel have reached New Delhi this afternoon.”

India has been issuing periodic travel and security advisories for all Indian nationals in Afghanistan, given the deteriorating security situation there, it said.

“Those already in Afghanistan were urged to return immediately while others were advised not to travel there. Nevertheless, we understand that a number of Indians are stranded in that country, some of whom are employed by third country organisations.

“Our immediate priority is to obtain accurate information about all Indian nationals currently in Afghanistan. They and /or their employers are requested to urgently share the relevant details with MEA’s Special Afghanistan Cell:

Phone: +91-11-49016783, +91-11-49016784, +91-11-49016785

WhatsApp: +91 80106 11290

Email: SituationRoom@mea.gov.in

“As regards Afghan nationals, our visa services will continue through an e-Emergency visa facility, which has been extended to Afghan nationals. This can be accessed through our e-visa portal at https:ndianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/Registration. We have already received requests from Afghan Sikh and Hindu community leaders, and are in touch with them,” the statement said.

Speaking to media persons in Jamnagar, where the Indian Air Force plane landed, Rudrendra Tandon said there are still some Indians in Kabul and Air India would "continue to run its commercial services" to the Afghan capital "as long as the airport there functions".

Tandon also thanked the IAF for flying them back “under conditions that are not normal”.

Asked how the evacuation was conducted, he said the situation in Afghanistan was being monitored “at the highest level, on a day-to-day and minute-to-minute basis. That is how the whole operation was conducted, involving from the junior-most person of the embassy to the highest person in the Government of India”.

To a question on the situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, he said “The situation is very complex as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan no longer exists and the situation is quite fluid now”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also chaired a high-level meeting on Afghanistan, which was attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, EAM S Jaishankar, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

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