Insights into Editorial: A strategic diaspora security policy
July 22, 2016
Strategic mass evacuations have become a recurrent feature with immense pressure on the government of the day “to do something very quickly”.
Few recent incidents include:
- In July 2016, the Indian government sent two Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft to evacuate about 500 Indians from Juba, South Sudan.
- In May, India evacuated its nationals from strife-torn Libya.
- In another operation last year that got international recognition, India evacuated about 6,000 people, including citizens from 26 nations such as the US, France, UK, Russia, and neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, etc., from Yemen.
In times of a crisis like an armed conflict that has the ability to escalate suddenly, the reaction time available with the ministry of external affairs, Indian embassies and missions abroad is extremely short. Quick and correct decisions should be taken. Quick and correct decision-making requires the availability of maximum number of operational assets to support a successful evacuation. However, the current lift capacity might fall woefully inadequate in times of a large-scale evacuation. Also, in a recent study by the Takshashila Institution, it has been estimated that it will take between 11 and 37 days under certain constraints, to evacuate less than half of the Indians from Riyadh using commercial as well as military capabilities. This shows how unprepared India is during the times of crisis.
What should the government do?
- Firstly, secure rights to use assets that are not under direct government control. The earlier evacuations have primarily been driven by the Indian Navy, Air Force and public sector commercial airline Air India. There is a need for a policy in which the government can call for aircraft and ships which are under private operators. Thus, there should be a licensing clause with commercial airlines which mandates that they will make their aircraft and crew available during times of crises for evacuation operations anywhere in the world.
- Secondly, have standing agreements between Indian embassies/missions abroad and private logistics operators. Before evacuation by ship or aircraft, the widely dispersed diaspora may need to be transported by road to the centralized evacuation airport or port. A standing agreement with international logistics companies and transport operators with insurance liabilities will facilitate immediate movement of the people to the focal point of evacuation.
- Thirdly, forge agreements with friendly countries for sea and air bases. Assuming that the host country bases are not usable for obvious reasons in times of crisis, the government should have arrangements with friendly countries in every region where there is a high concentration of diaspora. As evacuation by air would be the fastest, having access to safe airfields close to conflict zones will be highly desirable. This will need to take into consideration the issues of territoriality and sovereignty for operating Indian military and civil aircraft.
It is timely to look at this issue strategically with an eye on capacity mapping and getting operating bases overseas. It also involves huge transaction costs that need to be borne by the exchequer. In order to bolster the capacity and have a strategic lift policy in place, the government should consider the above indicated steps and put them in place urgently.