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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 March, 2003, 20:07 GMT
India airlines prepare war evacuation
Ayanjit Sen
BBC correspondent in Delhi

India says it has prepared a contingency plan to airlift nearly 50,000 Indian nationals from countries neighbouring Iraq if there is a war in the region.

Anti-war protesters in Indian-administered Kashmir
Students in Indian-administered Kashmir make their point
Thousands of Indians live in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

In a big civilian evacuation during the 1991 Gulf war, thousands of Indians were airlifted from the region.

Both Air India and the country's national carrier - Indian Airlines - are prepared to airlift 3,500 Indians a day should a war break out.

Jets prepared

"A plan has been made and we will take action only when it is required," said Jyotindra Bhargav, a spokesman for Air India.

Speaking to the BBC, Indian Airlines spokesman Anup Srivastava said his company was getting ready two Airbus-300 and three Airbus-320 jets for an evacuation.

The two airlines are ready to offer 10 or 11 flights every day for airlifting Indians from the Gulf region.

"Going by our experience during the Gulf war in 1991, we have made a contingency plan to airlift about 50,000 people if required and our point of operation will be Damam in Saudi Arabia," said Mr Srivastava.

He said Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were two countries in the region where most Indians live.

Earlier this month India advised its citizens to leave the region following the threat of a war.

Evacuated Indians will be flown back to Bombay and other locations in the south of the country.

Sri Lanka plans

In January, the Sri Lankan Government warned that tens of thousands of its nationals may have to be evacuated from Kuwait.

It said it would be asking the International Red Cross for help in flying its nationals home.

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