Navy warships being sent to evacuate Indians from Libya

NEW Delhi, February 24 (Agencies): Warships of Indian Navy are being despatched to evacuate Indians from Libya as the situation in the North African country continued to deteriorate because of clashes between supporters and opponents of Muammar Gaddafi. The ministry of external affairs asked the defence ministry to ready the warships to sail for Libya. The exact number of warships needed for the operation, which is likely to be a largescale one, and from where they will be despatched is being worked out.
As the situation in Libya continued to worsen, foreign minister S M Krishna told Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that it may not be possible to spell out how much time it will take to evacuate all Indians even though, he said, the government was doing all it could to ensure their safety. Replying to queries from MPs over the issue, Krishna said all Indian nationals were safe “as of now”. “It`s an extremely difficult proposition to spell out any timeframe for the evacuation. I can say that the government is serious and is concentrating on evacuating Indians in earliest possible time,” Krishna said.
There are about 18,000 Indians living in Libya, mainly in capital Tripoli and Benghazi. Krishna said there was need for a “much larger scale operation” as each ship could accommodate only 800-1,000 people. The minister also announced that an inter-ministerial committee headed by foreign secretary Nirupama Rao had been formed to coordinate efforts to ensure safety of all Indians in Libya. Chinese news agencies reported on Wednesday that Beijing managed to evacuate close to 3,000 people to neighbouring Tunisia by road. Krishna said the Indian ambassador to Libya had spoken to all Indian nurses stranded in Benghazi and that they were all safe. He added that because this was an evacuation, unlike the special flights operated earlier by Air India for Indians based in Egypt, no fare would be charged.