The Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out a special rescue mission in which a group of 50 Indian scientists including those who tested Covid-19 positive were brought back in a special C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft from a Central Asian country.
The Indian scientists were in the Central Asian republic on official assignment as part of agreements between India and that country.
“As soon as information was received about the spread of Coronavirus among the group of scientists, the Indian embassy in that country got activated. Immediately the government authorities concerned asked the Indian Air Force whether it could bring back the group of scientists which included Covid patients,” sources told ANI.
The Indian Air Force had brought back Indian nationals stuck in Wuhan in China and other parts of the world but it had not flown Covid-19 positive patients.
However, the C-17 squadron of the Air Force had been preparing for such an eventuality and had practiced manoeuvres to fly Covid-19 patients in emergency and the precautions and safety measures to be taken by the pilots and the crew to avoid getting infected, the sources said.
Soon after, the agencies concerned took all due clearances to send the aircraft to the central Asian republic.
In the first week of this month, the C-17 aircraft took off from India and reached its destination after an almost nine-hour flight, the sources said.
At the airport in that country, the Indian officials there safely brought the group of scientists to the aircraft which had created all possible facilities for evacuating them including separate compartments for passengers, the sources said.
The aircraft took off after a two-hour halt at the airport and returned to India and dropped the scientists at a location in the Southern part of the country, they added.
The rescue mission took a total of around 20 hours.
When asked to share details about the special mission and the personnel who carried it out, the Indian Air Force refused to either comment or confirm the developments.
The scientific organisation with which the Indian scientists were affiliated with, also refused to discuss the rescue mission and the people involved in it.
Sources said the Indian officials in that country played a pivotal role in helping the scientists return to India.
It is learned that post-flight, the Air Force crew and other people involved with the mission underwent the mandatory quarantine procedure and are doing fine, the sources said.
The Narendra Modi-led government since 2014 has enhanced its efforts to help out Indian citizens in distress outside the country.
Former chief and Union Minister Gen VK Singh had led a rescue mission to bring back Indians stuck in a conflict in the Middle East and then went to war-torn Iraq personally to get back Indians believed to have been abducted by the ISIS terrorists.
During this Covid crisis also, the Indian Navy was sent to Iran, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and various other locations to get back Indians safely.