Planning made Kuwait airlifting a big success: ex-minister

Planning made Kuwait airlifting a big success: ex-minister

"It was an operation on a larger scale that was successfully accomplished as 1.48 lakh Indians were airlifted safely from the Gulf then, though the ground realities were far much more difficult and the logistics limited," Unnikrishnan, who was surface transport minister in the National Front Government headed by late V P Singh, told PTI.

"There was much anxiety back home about the fate of the Indians in Kuwait, especially in Kerala from where thousands had been working in the Gulf. Initially, there were some misgivings about the logistical and diplomatic constraints involved. But some of us convinced the Prime Minister and got the cabinet mandate to carry out the plans," he said.

"I K Gujral was the Foreign Minister and Arif Muhammad Khan the Civil Aviation Minister. But I was entrusted with the task of overseeing the operation," he said.

Thousands of Indians had fled Kuwait in fear as the situation developed into a full-blown war and got stranded in the deserts of Jordan. There were scepticism whether the airlifting could be done successfully in such circumstances.

"Having been authorised by the Cabinet, first thing I did was to alert the Indian missions in West Asian countries. The first option was to seek the help of IAF. But there were some problems involved in that. Then I proposed that some of the air bus aircraft bought by India but lying grounded due to some peculiar reasons could be used for the purpose," he recalled.

He said he then approached the Jordanian monarch, who, while extending moral support, said the country was not in a position to provide logistics.

"The stranded people were first brought to Amman and from there to Dubai and then to Mumbai. The Railways arranged for transport of those who reached Mumbai to their respective home states," he said.

"In such emergency situations, quick decision making, fast mustering of all available resources and execution of plans with great precision are important," he said.

That operation was hailed as one of the massive airlifting of all time from a troubled area, he said.

Unnikrishnan, who was a Congress(S) nominee in the National Front Government, later joined the Congress and is a member of the Kerala PCC executive now.