By Hari Kumar And Ellen Barry, NY Times, April 5, 2015
NEW DELHI–India used small boats this weekend to ferry some
of its citizens to a naval destroyer anchored near Aden, Yemen, as an operation
to evacuate about 4,000 Indians from Yemen’s war zone entered a difficult
The Indian ship was not able to dock in Aden because of
shelling, so the small boats carried people in groups of about 30, said Syed
Akbaruddin, the spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry. About 2,000
Indians have now been transported out of Yemen, but the deteriorating
conditions there mean that no more evacuations from Aden will be possible, he
“It’s been a hard task, and as the situation worsens, the
time available to us lessens,” he said. “Difficult situations now are becoming
more difficult as time passes.”
Several thousand Indian women work as nurses in Yemen, and
many have been reluctant to leave, despite the intensifying conflict, because
their families are so heavily dependent on their remittances.
Manju James, 30, who returned from Sana, Yemen’s capital, on
Thursday, said her family had taken out loans of about $4,000 to pay for her
training and job placement in Yemen, where she earns $400 a month, nearly four
times what she earned in India. Of that, she sends $350 home every month, and
she is still repaying the loans.
“I wanted to stay, but so much bombing was taking place
every day,” Ms. James said in a telephone interview from the southern state of
Kerala, where her family lives. “I would like to go back as soon as the
fighting stops, because I need to earn more money for my family.”
She added, “If fighting doesn’t stop in Yemen, maybe I will
find another country for work.”
Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi fighters seized Sana in January
and forced President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi to retreat to the southern port of
Aden. Houthi forces recently advanced to Aden, despite a Saudi Arabian-led air
bombing campaign intended to stop them.
Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India spoke to
King Salman of Saudi Arabia, whose forces essentially control Yemeni airspace,
to seek his assistance in the evacuation.
Most of the remaining 2,000 Indians are in Sana, which is
under control of the Houthi fighters. Four Air India flights carrying Indian
citizens took off from the city on Saturday and Sunday, carrying a total of 488
people, according to Indian news reports.
Lethika Rajan, 25, who works at a public hospital in Sana,
said that she had heard “gunshots and loud noise of bombings all the time,” and
that she had been urging her employers to return her passport so she could
leave. Her employers complied only after the Indian Embassy intervened on her
behalf. Ms. Rajan is currently on a list of people awaiting evacuation.
India has carried out several large evacuations of its
citizens living abroad in recent years–from Ukraine, Iraq and Libya, among
others–but has not used naval warships for any of the operations since the
2006 war in Lebanon, northern Israel and the Golan Heights.
In Yemen, as in other Persian Gulf states that employ many
Indians, the task is complicated by regulations that require foreign citizens
to have government authorization before they leave.