Govt advises against travel to Iraq; may evacuate Indian nationals from Iran

The ministry of external affairs today issued an advisory asking Indian nationals to avoid travel to Iraq until further notice in view of the prevailing situation in the Middle East. It also said the Navy stands ready to evacuate Indians from Iran it the need arises.

The government has also asked Indian carriers to avoid the airspace of Iran, Iraq and the Gulf of Oman following tension in the region.
Directorate General of Civil Aviation is also reported to have held meetings with concerned airlines and have sensitised them to remain vigilant and take all precautions."
"In view of the prevailing situation in Iraq, Indian nationals are advised to avoid all non-essential travel to Iraq until further notification. Indian nationals residing in Iraq are advised to be alert and may avoid travel within Iraq," spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs, Raveesh Kumar, said.
He, however, said, "Our Embassy in Baghdad and Consulate in Erbil will continue to function normally to provide all services to Indians residing in Iraq."
Amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran over the killing of latter's top general - Qassem Soleimani – earlier this week, the MEA said Indian Naval Ship (INS) Trikhand may be deployed for evacuation of Indians from Iran, if required. 
''The Indian Naval Ship INS Trikhand, which is in the Gulf of Oman since September last year, can be deployed for evacuation of Indians if the need arises,'' the MEA spokesperson said at a press briefing, 
The MEA spokesperson further said that the government is also keeping a close watch on the developing US-Iran geo-political tensions.
Middle east tensions mounted after Tehran launched retaliatory short-range ballistic missiles at two US military bases in Iraq. Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif on Wednesday said that his country took `proportionate measures in self-defence` and that it does not seek any escalation or war. 
"Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defence under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens and senior officials were launched. We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression," Zarif said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, an Ukranian plane carrying 180 passengers and crew onboard crashed near the airport in Tehran and all occupants were killed, an Iranian emergency official told state television. 
The plane, said to be a Boeing 737, is suspected to have crashed near Iran’s International Imam Khomeini airport – from where it had taken off – due to technical issues, media reports said.
The crash came hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack targeting two bases in Iraq housing US forces in retaliation for the killing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ General Qassem Soleimani.