How The Largest Air Evacuation in History Unfolded
A distinguished diplomat who handled the evacuation of 176,000 Indians, narrates how Air India carried out this task.
On 2nd August 1990, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein decided to have a ‘picnic’ in Kuwait by sending in his army across the border. He had massed troops at the border for weeks, and on 25th July 1990, the US Ambassador April Glaspie encouraged him to have the picnic, wittingly or unwittingly, by declaring that her instructions were to strengthen relations with Iraq; the US did not want to take any side in ‘intra-Arab’ disputes, a clear reference to the mounting tension between Iraq and Kuwait. Saddam Hussein foolishly concluded that he could invade Kuwait and get away with it. Little did he know that the US wanted him to invade Kuwait so that the Pentagon could have a permanent presence in the region.I was then Joint Secretary (Gulf) in the Ministry of External Affairs. The first phone call I got, around 6 AM on 2nd August, was from a friend in Kuwait city who said that she could see Iraqi tanks on the road. Later, our ambassador in Kuwait, AK Budhiraja called. (more…)