NEW DELHI: As part of the second phase of Vande Bharat repatriation mission, five flights are scheduled to carry back Indians stranded in the Philippines from May 19. While four flights are scheduled from Manila to Visakhapatnam, Kochi, Bengaluru and Jaipur, one flies from Cebu to Ahmedabad. In all, 7000 Indians have registered with the Indian embassy to return from the archipelago where over 800 people have died due to the viral outbreak. The first phase of the evacuation was tough, India’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia Jaideep Mazumdar tells StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi. He outlines the difficulties posed by the strict lockdown and the fact that there is no Air India ground presence in the country. The envoy praises the mission staff for coordination efforts, among them consular officer ‘Mishraji’ and a lady officer who sent her child’s colouring books to a family who had a disconsolate 5-year-old and were sheltering in a local gurudwara. All this at a time the Philippines has been battered by a typhoon.
On business ties, Indian IT, pharma, automobile and two-wheeler companies have a significant presence in the Philippines, Ambassador Mazumdar points out. When asked about the interest evinced by the Philippines’ Defence Minister in the BrahMos defence platform, the envoy says, “Discussions are on for a range of platforms and defence systems. Once travel becomes possible, joint committees will meet and discuss the different programmes we have on defence purchases.” Ambassador Mazumdar also says the Philippines is a major staging ground for Indian Air Force aircraft and Naval ships in joint exercises in the Far East and in the South China Sea held bilaterally or multilaterally with Russia, the U.S., Australia, Japan and the host.
Jaideep Mazumdar is India’s Ambassador-designate to Austria where he will also represent New Delhi at international organisations like the IAEA, OPEC, UNIDO, UNODC and the Wassenaar Arrangement.