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Gaining worldwide recognition for its assistance to the countries of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) devastated by the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami, the Indian Navy has again launched a major naval diplomacy initiative to help to the coastal countries to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
As part of their Humanitarian Aid and Humanitarian Aid (HADR), five of the navy’s largest amphibious warships have been designated on a mission to transport food grains, medical equipment and medicines to the IOR island states. On their return trip, they will bring Indians stranded in those countries, as part of Vande Bharat’s larger mission to repatriate Indian citizens.
On Wednesday, the Indian Naval Vessel (INS) Kesari, a 5,600-ton vessel designed to land army tanks and soldiers on hostile shores, set sail for the southern Indian Ocean. Over the next two months, INS Kesari will deliver aid, step by step, to Madagascar, the Comoros, the Maldives and the Seychelles.
Each of these countries will receive 10-12 tons of medicines, while the Maldives will also receive 660 tons of food grains. 27 Indian Navy medical personnel will treat patients in Mauritius and the Comoros.
On Thursday, as part of Operation Samudra Setu (ocean bridge), INS Jalashwa arrived in the Maldives on a mission to evacuate the stranded Indians to Kochi on Friday. Jalashwa, a 16,600-ton amphibious landing ship, is the second largest navy warship after the carrier, INS Vikramaditya.
Capable of carrying more than 1,000 civilians, the Jalashwa will ship only 750 due to Covid-19-related distancing rules. The ship is equipped with extensive medical facilities including four operating rooms, a 12-bed room, a laboratory, and a dental center. The Jalashwa, which is the only Indian warship acquired in the United States, also ships six helicopters.
Under Operation Samudra Setu, a second amphibious warship, INS Magar, will arrive in the Maldives on Thursday to evacuate Indian civilians.
Two other amphibious warships, INS Airawat and INS Shardul, were destined to proceed to West Asia to evacuate stranded Indian citizens in the Gulf countries.
Meanwhile, under Operation Vande Bharat, the army, navy and air force have prepared six quarantine facilities that can accommodate up to 2,100 Indians evacuated from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Malaysia. These facilities have been established in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bhopal, Kochi, Vishakhapatnam and Chennai.
Indian citizens, who will be evacuated under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, will undergo mandatory quarantine at these military facilities, before being allowed to return to their homes.