Sudan Crisis Has a Ukraine Connect Besides Indians Caught in Crossfire of War

Sudan getting relief as a high-debt country saw its problems getting further aggravated due to the war in Ukraine.

4 min read
Hindi Female

Images of a young Indian furtively glancing over his shoulder to check whether any of the flying bullets were coming his way and breathlessly speaking on his phone and telling anyone willing to listen to him that, unlike many Sudanese who were leaving the capital, Khartoum, and running to their villages, he had no place to go, are flooding language channels in the country. Besides feeding anxieties in different states, they are also lending a spin to an acrimonious election campaign in the state of Karnataka.

Expectedly, the leader of the Congress party, Siddaramaiah sought the intervention of Foreign Minister, S Jaishankar, to rescue some 31 Hakki Pikki tribals from Karnataka that were trapped in the war-torn country.

What is a relatively unknown tribe doing in distant Sudan? It is the same question that was asked by the uninformed about what 30,000 odd Indians were doing in Ukraine when the Russians began to pound artillery at little-known towns of East European country.

Similarly, no one would have really bothered to raise this query had it not been for the Hakki Pikkis getting stuck in the middle of a civil war triggered by the fight for supremacy between two the Generals, Abdul Fattah al-Burhan of the Sudan national army and Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo or Hemedti of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).


An Indian Tribal Community Stranded in Sudan Draws Attention to the Crisis

These Hakki Pikki tribals, who were in the African nation to sell ayurvedic medicine—their own plus some famous Indian brands—have reportedly built a reputation for being immune from Covid-19 infection.

They were not alone. Besides many other foreigners, there are many more Indians who went for business and work in Sudan and got sucked into this vortex of violence. By a rough estimate, there are about 8,000 of them trying to find a way to get out of harm’s way and looking for support from the Indian government.

After Siddaramaiah raised the issue, Jaishankar was initially appalled by the attempts by the Congress leader to politicise the issue but seemed to see the reason subsequently. Since then the Ministry of External Affairs has been sending out updates about what it is doing to extract the trapped Indians. Jaishankar has spoken with his counterparts in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.

Both countries are part of 'The Quartet' comprising US, UK, UAE, and Saudi Arabia that are trying to broker peace between the two Generals, Burhan, and Hemedeth.

Both have promised help, but it has to be seen how it plays out as the Quartet in their own way have been involved in the militarising of the Sudanese society after the people’s revolution of 2019 was brutally squelched by the Generals.

And there is a reason. Saudi Arabia and UAE have been using the soldiers of the Sudanese army and the brutal militia to fight their war against the Houthis in Yemen. The same militia, which is jostling for power in Khartoum was used by an earlier dictator, Bashir to put down the uprising in Darfur.


Why Is Sudan Boiling?

In 2019, the people’s uprising against the long-serving authoritarian leader, Omar al-Bashir, was genuine. After Bashir was ousted, a transitional council was formed, where Army shared power with a civilian PM. On 25 October 2021, this arrangement was overthrown by the army in a coup, but due to the intervention of the African Union, and United Nations, a political framework agreement was brokered on 5 December 2022 to help the people of Sudan realise their desire for peace, democracy, and sustainable development. This remained a fond hope for those aspiring for peace as the Generals refused to part with power.

Sudan’s economy is in a mess. Almost 40 percent of its population lives in hunger. Their misery has been exacerbated, first by the partition of the country with oil resources going to South Sudan and the refining capacity in Khartoum. The economy has been shattered further by the mishandling by the army rulers, who ousted the civilian leadership and in the process short circuited all the support the country was getting from multilateral institutions.

After the 2021 military coup when General Burhan consolidated power around his persona and ousted Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok and his cabinet members, all funding was stopped. General Burhan tried to bring back Hamdok, but he resigned from the arrangement that had been put together.

Sudan that was getting relief as a high-debt country, saw its problems getting further aggravated due to the war in Ukraine as the food grain its masses receive from donor countries, began to dry up. If Sudan was undivided, then it would have benefited from the windfall profit that many oil-rich countries had raked in due to the Ukraine war—Saudi, UAE and US, being the main beneficiaries. However, that was not to be due to the complexity that the presence of the Generals brought to the country.

The situation in the country is so dire that millions seem trapped in the capital, with water and power being cut by competing gun-slinging soldiers. Egypt, which is backing Army Chief, General Burhan, which has parked its aircraft in the army’s air base, has the ignominy of seeing them being surrounded by the militias. There has been the use of warplanes even against civilians. In this horrific human tragedy which has spun out of control in a matter of few days, it is to be seen whether there is any space for diplomacy or intervention as Siddaramaiah expects from Foreign Minister Jaishankar.

(Sanjay is the Editor of Delhi's Hardnews magazine. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)

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