While it showed its tactical acumen in staying away from the Port of Yemen which faced bombardment and intermittent firing, the men in white tackled the crisis with aplomb by prioritising the safety of Indian compatriots who struggled and jostled with Yemenis to reach the waiting ships.
"Our principles of operation were very clear--'Indians First, Others later' and 'No Indians, No Rescue'. When many people approached us (for evacuation) we told them Indians would be rescued first," Captain Pradeep Singh, Commanding Officer of 'INS Tarkash', one of the vessels deployed in the operation, told reporters during an interaction here today.
He said many a times Yemeni people, desperately wanted to be rescued, tried to obstruct Indian nationals from boarding the vessels, but the Navy kept its foot down saying its priority is to evacuate Indian compatriots. The Navy also rescued over 1,200 foreign nationals during the risky operation.
Another Naval officer said the process of taking people onboard the ships was a real challenge for them. "There was continuous bombardment and intermittent firing (going on) at the Port of Aden so we kept our ships two kilometres away from the port," said Captain Rajesh Dhankar, Commanding Officer of 'INS Mumbai'.
The set motto of the rescue ops was to save Indians first, rest later
He said the evacuees used to come into batches on small boats to board the ships. Navy's task did not end at rescuing people but it also played a guardian angel and taskmaster at the same time when it not only placated some evacuees who insisted on food of their choice but also aided a pregnant woman in delivery and counselled those under severe stress due to the ongoing events in Yemen.
Principal Medical Officers Sudanshu Shekar recalled how the 37-year-old woman, who was nine-month and four-day pregnant, was taken onboard and provided medical assistance, while she gave birth to a baby on board 'INS Tarkash'.
The crew members today received kudos from Naval chief Admiral R K Dhowan for their efforts. Commander R V Subramanian said another challenge was to follow screening and checking procedures as Navy wanted to ensure that nobody without valid proof board the ships.
"We would love to help people but we had so stop and say no beyond a point, irrespective of how painful it is," Subramanian said.