Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait

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1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait

The 1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait was carried out from August 13, 1990 to October 20, 1990 after the Invasion of Kuwait. Air India helped evacuate 175,000 people by civil airliners. The operation was carried out during the Persian Gulf War in 1990 to evacuate Indian expatriates from Kuwait. Following this operation Air India, the flag carrier Indian airline entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people evacuated by a civil airliner. Mathunny Mathews, Harbajan Singh Vedi, Abey Varicad, V.K Warrier, Ali Hussain and few others based in Kuwait helped immensely in the evacuation efforts of fellow Indians.



The invasion of Kuwait started on August 2, 1990, and within two days of combat, most of the Kuwaiti armed forces were either overrun by the Iraqi Republican Guard or fell back to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The Emirate of Kuwait was annexed, and Saddam Hussein announced a few days later that it was the 19th province of Iraq. More than 171,000 Indians were stranded on Kuwaiti soil.


Initial efforts were made by the government of India to evacuate nationals by military aircraft. However, due to difficulties in air-space clearances the switch was made to civilian aircraft. India had initially requested permission to evacuate its citizens by Air India but the request was not approved by the UN and the government of Kuwait in exile. India was required to use planes supplied to them under the UN banner. Complications arose due to the significantly higher number of nationals requiring evacuation, a lack of travel documents and poor communications. The airlift was completed before the start of Operation Desert Storm. About 111,711 people were evacuated (airlifted) from Amman, Jordan, to Mumbai – a distance of 4,117 km (2558 mi) – by Air India, operating 488 flights in association with Indian Airlines, from August 18, 1990 to October 20, 1990 – lasting 63 days.

Buses are also used after winning Baghdad's approval to ferry Indians through Basra, Baghdad and to Amman in Jordan.

Popular culture

The event was the basis for the 2016 film Airlift starring Akshay Kumar, who played a character inspired by the works of Mathunny Mathews and Harbajan Singh Vedi. Some historical facts were however changed in the film for example downplaying the efforts put by Indian Government.


1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait Wikipedia

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