As fighting between two rival forces rages in Sudan, India on Thursday said the situation in that country is "very tense" and it is focusing on ensuring the safety and well-being of the Indian community, including working on contingency plans and possible evacuation.
New Delhi is keeping a close watch on the developments in Sudan besides being in touch with relevant countries, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a media briefing and added that any evacuation plan will depend on the ground situation.
"We are in readiness of taking multiple options. There are contingency plans. We are in close touch with our teams on the ground. But it will all depend on how long there is a pause in the fighting or a ceasefire; where it is happening, what is available in terms of locations where we can safely take people away," he said.
He was responding to a question on whether India is looking to evacuate its citizens from Sudan.
Bagchi also said External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is expected to meet UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York on the situation in Sudan.
Sudan has been witnessing deadly fighting between the country's army and a paramilitary group for the last seven days that has reportedly left around 200 people dead.
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Jaishankar has already spoken to his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt on the ground situation in violence-hit Sudan with a focus on ensuring the safety of the Indians.
In a tweet, Jaishankar said he discussed with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry the "concerning" situation in Sudan and deeply valued his "assessments and insights, as also his very helpful attitude."
Asked about reports suggesting attacks on the Indian embassy in Khartoum, Bagchi said it is located just opposite the airport in the city and that zone has seen a lot of fighting.
"There has been some shelling as well. I would not be able to specifically comment on whether it has happened specifically outside the embassy but yes there are reports that in that zone where there are many embassies, attacks are going on," he said.
On possible evacuation, Bagchi said they will depend on the ground situation.
"If the situation on the ground improves, if there is a pause in the fighting or there is a ceasefire, we will certainly take advantage of that primarily to first get the people to safer areas, provide food and water," he said.
"For the moment, it is a very tense situation where there is not too much of a respite from fighting although the intensity has been going up and down," he said.
To another query, Bagchi said the embassy is fully functional and staffers are operating from their residences as fighting has been going on in the zone where the mission is located. He said nobody resides in the embassy complex.
"We are keeping a very close watch on the evolving situation there. Our mission in Khartoum has been in contact with the Indian community there through multiple channels -- informal, formal," Bagchi said.
Asked about the number of Indians staying in Sudan, he refused to divulge the details citing security implications though he noted that the government has a sense of the strength of the community.
According to official data earlier, the number of Indians in Sudan is around 4,000 including 1200 who settled down in that country decades ago.
The MEA spokesperson said the Indian embassy is engaged with the countries in the region as well as other nations that have a key role to play, particularly the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
"We are also in touch with various UN bodies that are present there. The UN has a significant presence on the ground. The External Affairs Minister is presently in New York and he is likely to meet the UN Secretary-General to discuss developments in Sudan," he added.
Bagchi said the situation on the ground is "very tense" which renders any movement very risky.
"So currently our focus is on ensuring the safety and well-being of the individuals wherever they are located
"We are monitoring the situation and are in touch with the people. Let me emphasise that we understand the difficulties people are facing," he said.
"The situation on the ground is changing, it is quite fluid. Incidents are happening at various locations and we are advising the community members who are reaching out," he added.
Bagchi said the Indian mission and the MEA are trying to reach out to every Indian in Sudan. He also appealed to all Indians there to get in touch with the mission.
"We are trying to locate every Indian, trying to build a database, trying to counsel them," he said.
The MEA spokesperson said the power supply and internet connectivity in that country have been patchy.
On Monday, the Indian embassy in Sudan issued a fresh advisory urging Indians not to venture out of their residences and stay calm.
The embassy, on Sunday, said an Indian national died in Khartoum after sustaining bullet injuries.
Sudan's military captured power in a coup in October 2021 and it has been running the country through a sovereign council since then.
There has been a dispute between the Army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) over a proposed timeline for handing over power to a civilian government.
The fighting erupted between the forces loyal to two rival generals as both are aiming to wrest control over the country.
On the death of an Indian, Bagchi said the mortal remains of the deceased had been moved from his apartment complex into a mortuary in a hospital.
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