An official of the external affairs ministry was telling me about the government's plans to evacuate all Indians from Kuwait.
"The minister is keen that all Indians should be repatriated and we are doing it on a war footing. We will not rest till the last Indian has been brought liome," he said.
"I am happy to hear that," I said. "How long do you think it will take you to bring them all back?"
"It is difficult to say at this stage," the official said. "You must understand, this is only the beginning. But in the first year we plan to bring back at least, and I repeat - at least, 20 per cent of the Indian population in Kuwait."
"How many years will it take you to complete the evacuation?" I asked.
The official looked through some files, made calculations on a paper, and said: "we will take it fiver years at a time. The first five years we will try and bring back as many of the women and children as we can. The next five years, the older man and those who may be ill for various reasons. After that, we will see."
"It is going to be a long project," I said. "How do you expect our people to live there all this time?"
"They will be looked after," the official said. "Our minister will be visiting them regularly, both Mr. Gujral and Mr. Arif Mohammed Khan. The will talk to them and assure themthat they are not forgotten and the government has their cases in mind at all times."
"Is there no way that the governemtn can speed up the process of repatriating them?" I asked.
"How much more can we speed up!" the official said. "Every day we are bringing back 300 to 400 people. You must have yourself seem them no television. From next week, we are trying to add another 100 to this number. The trouble is that everybody wants to come out of Kuwait and Iraq, nobody wants to go in. so, one way, our palnes have to fly empty."
"What about ships?" I asked. "Some time back there were reports that the government was sending ships to bring them back."
"We are negotating, the minister of shippeing and the minister of surface transpot have had meetings. I am sure something worthwhile will come out of these meetings. I can assure you no sone is being left unturned."
"Well," at least you have increased the number of Air-India flights from Amman daily, the should help," I said.
"I doubt it," the offcical said. "The expatrates are refusing to fly on the A-320s. They say they would rather face Saddam Hussein's bulets than risks flying in the A-320s."