As Afghanistan Closes Airspace, Air India Suspends Flight Operations to Kabul
The government had told Air India to put two aircraft on standby for emergency evacuations from Kabul, sources said.
Afghanistan's airspace was closed on Monday, 16 August, preventing commercial flights from operating to and from Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport, even as thousands thronged the airport in an attempt to flee the country amid a takeover by the Taliban.
An Air India flight, which was scheduled to take off for Kabul from Delhi at 8:50am on Monday morning, and was later rescheduled to 12:50pm, has subsequently been suspended following the closure of airspace at Kabul.
As a consequence of this airspace closure, India, which has been preparing to evacuate its officials and citizens from Afghanistan, much like other countries, is now facing an obstacle.
“Airspace over Afghanistan is declared closed. So, no aircraft can operate there. Our scheduled flight to Kabul also cannot go,” an Air India spokesperson said, Hindustan Times reported.
Meanwhile, Air India's AI-126 Chicago-Delhi flight was diverted towards the Gulf airspace, owing to the closure of the Afghan airspace.
Preparations for Emergency Evacuations Underway
As per a report by The Indian Express, officials from the Indian Embassy had readied themselves to be evacuated on Sunday.
Earlier on Monday morning, officials had told news agency ANI, "The government has told Air India to put two aircraft on standby for emergency evacuations from Kabul. Air India has prepared a crew for emergency operations from Kabul to New Delhi."
Additionally, a fleet of C-17 Globemaster military transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force was on standby for emergency evacuation missions, PTI reported.
Sources in Afghanistan had said that emergency evacuation plans have been finalised.
"The government is closely monitoring fast-paced developments in Afghanistan. We will not put the lives of our staff at the Indian Embassy in Kabul at any risk."A government source as quoted by PTI
However, the Government of India has not yet put out an official statement on the collapse of the civilian government in Afghanistan.
Twenty years after the United States invaded Afghanistan – providing billion-dollars worth of military support to the government, catapulting the nation into decades of war with the militant organisation – the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan on Sunday.
In his first statement since the terror organisation took over the presidential palace in Afghanistan, former President Ghani said, "The Taliban have made it to remove me; they are here to attack all Kabul and the people of Kabul. In order to avoid the bleeding flood, I thought it was best to get out."
A spokesman for the Taliban’s political office on Sunday declared that the war was over in Afghanistan and called for peaceful relations with the international community.
Meanwhile, the United States as well as over 65 nations have urged the Taliban to let Afghans leave the country.
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