Fate of 3000 Indians hang in the balance in Sudan
Khartoum/New Delhi/Washington/Beijing: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting today to review the security situation with a specific focus on the safety of over 3,000 Indian citizens presently located throughout Sudan.
The Prime Minister expressed his condolences on the passing away of an Indian national who fell victim to a stray bullet last week in Khartoum and instructed all relevant officials to remain vigilant, closely monitoring developments and continuously evaluating the safety of Indian nationals in Sudan and extending them all possible assistance. The Prime Minister further directed the preparation of contingency evacuation plans, accounting for the rapidly shifting security landscape and the viability of various options.
The Prime Minister also emphasized the importance of maintaining close communication with neighbouring countries in the region, as well as those with significant numbers of citizens in Sudan.
However, Khartoum International Airport and Sudan’s border with Chad are closed.
With regard to the safety of its citizens the United States seems “very clear” about the need for the Americans in Sudan to remain indoors, to stay off the roads, to shelter in place, and to avoid travelling to the US embassy in Khartoum at this time.
The Pentagon put out a statement that through the United States Africa Command, it was monitoring the situation closely and conducting prudent planning for various contingencies. Pentagon was deploying additional capabilities nearby to the region should circumstances require it.
Stressing that there is no military solution to Sudan’s political crisis, the US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken spoke separately with the two warring leaders, General Abdel Fattah al Burhan, Commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces, and with General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, Commander of the Rapid Support Forces, urging both to implement and uphold a nationwide ceasefire and sustain it through at least the end of Eid al-Fitr, Sunday, April 23, 2023. The US said the 24-hour ceasefire announced on April 19 “has mostly held”.
The situation in Khartoum remains grim though. The warring generals have so far rejected negotiations with each other and despite attempts at a ceasefire, fighting between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continues.
“Our focus remains squarely on two things: first, ensuring the safety and security of our personnel in the region at the embassy in Khartoum; but also working with our regional and other partners to establish an immediate ceasefire, to take steps to reduce tensions, and ensure the safety of all civilians, including UN workers, humanitarian workers, and of course not just our diplomatic personnel but diplomatic personnel from other capitals as well,” Vedant Patel, Principal Deputy Spokesperson of the US State Department, said. He acknowledged that due to the uncertain and very fluid security situation in Khartoum and the closure of the airport, it was not safe to undertake a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of private American citizens at this time.
It may be mentioned that on April 17, 2023, an American diplomatic convoy was fired on in Khartoum. There were also increasing numbers of reported attacks on health personnel, health facilities, and ambulances in Sudan. These attacks already led to at least three people killed and two injured. At least 16 hospitals (including nine in Khartoum) are reportedly non-functional due to attacks and 16 hospitals in Khartoum and according to WHO’s regional office for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO), other states, including the Darfur States, were close to being non-functional due to staff fatigue and lack of supplies.
Meanwhile, Beijing stated that China was closely following the developments of the situation in Sudan, and called on the two sides to stop fighting “as soon as possible” and prevent further escalation. “We hope parties in Sudan will increase dialogue and jointly move forward the political transition process. We are in close communication and coordination with relevant parties and will do everything possible to protect the safety and security of Chinese nationals and institutions in Sudan,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters in Beijing today. Earlier the director and a teacher of a Confucius Institute at the University of Khartoum were also controlled by soldiers with guns but were rescued.
– global bihari bureau