MEA advises Indians not to travel to Iran, Israel amid escalating tensions

Delhi, April 13: India on Friday issued an advisory urging its citizens not to travel to Iran or Israel following a sharp rise in tensions between the two sides and asking all Indian nationals living in the two countries to observe “utmost precautions” for their safety.

The advisory was issued against the backdrop of a growing number of reports about an Iranian attack on Israel or Israeli interests in retaliation for the Israeli air strike on April 1 on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria that killed seven people, including three generals.

“In view of the prevailing situation in the region, all Indians are advised not to travel to Iran or Israel till further notice,” said the advisory issued by the external affairs ministry.

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“All those who are currently residing in Iran or Israel are requested to get in touch with Indian Embassies there and register themselves. They are also requested to observe utmost precautions about their safety and restrict their movements to the minimum,” the advisory said.

There are about 18,000 Indian nationals in Israel, a majority of them are caregivers and professionals in sectors such as information technology. Iran is home to some 4,000 Indian nationals, including traders and academics.

People familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that the advisory meant no more Indian workers will be able to travel to Israel under a government-to-government (G2G) arrangement to work in the construction sector.

The first batch of 64 Indian workers travelled to Israel on April 2 and some 6,000 more were expected to be sent during April and May to help Israel’s construction sector overcome a labour shortage created by the withdrawal of work permits for Palestinian workers.

Israeli authorities had plans to operate an “air shuttle” to bring in the Indian workers after the Prime Minister’s Office, finance ministry and construction ministry decided to subsidise charter flights.

Another 900 Indian construction workers travelled to Israel in recent months under business-to-business arrangements. Last week, the Indian side had urged Israeli authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of Indian nationals being sent to work in the construction sector.

The people said Indian authorities are working for various contingencies, including the possible evacuation of Indian nationals from Iran and Israel.

Last week, India expressed concern at the Israeli air strike on a building in the Iranian embassy complex in Damascus on April 1 that killed seven people, including Brig Gen Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who oversaw operations in Syria and Lebanon.

“India is distressed at the escalating tensions in West Asia, and their potential to fuel further violence and instability. We urge all parties to avoid actions that go against commonly accepted principles and norms of international law,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal had said.

Iran has pledged a “decisive” response to the Israeli strike, with foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian describing the attack “as a violation of all international obligations and conventions”. The anticipated Iranian retaliation has raised fears of an all-out regional war in West Asia, which is home to some nine million Indian expatriates.

International pressure has grown on Israel following the recent killing of seven aid workers of the World Central Kitchen in Israeli air strikes, with US President Joe Biden describing the deaths as “outrageous”. Biden has also said he doesn’t agree with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach to handling the situation in Gaza. Public opinion in countries such as Germany, the UK and the US has turned against military supplies to Israel amid calls by international leaders for Netanyahu to do more to let in humanitarian aid for the residents of Gaza.

The conflict in Gaza was triggered by the terror attacks by Hamas into southern Israel that killed some 1,200 people. Hamas also took about 250 hostages. More than 33,000 people, a majority of them civilians, have been killed in Israel’s offensive in Gaza. India has called for an end to hostilities and a return to dialogue aimed at a two-state solution.


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