Airlift teaser: How India executed biggest civilian operation in the world 25 years ago

Airlift poster

The teaser of Bollywood Khiladi Akshay Kumar's upcoming movie, Airlift, was released online on Wednesday. The teaser became an instant hit on social media after it was well-received by the audience.

Airlift is inspired by true events that unfolded 25 years ago.

Early in the morning of August 2, 1990 over 100,000 Iraqi soldiers coupled with 700 tanks invaded Kuwait during the first Gulf war. The state was overrun by Iraqis, establishing a provisional government under former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.

There were several reasons cited for Iraq's open aggression towards Kuwait, including Iraq wanted the latter to reduce its oil output to increase oil prices on international markets, which in return would help debt-laden Iraq to raise more money.

Iraq had incurred huge debts as a result of its long-drawn conflict with Iran.

The royal family escaped to Saudi Arabia as millions of general population, including Indian community, suffered the wrath of the Iraqis. People were looted and stripped of their wealth and status.

While one of significant chapters of world history was unfolding, what concerned India the most is the safety of its nationals settled in the small Persian Gulf nation..

Ranjit Katyal, a wealthy and powerful businessman who identified himself as Kuwaiti first and then as Indian, also suffered the same fate of others in the war-torn nation. However, his influence and contacts that he had built along with his wealth came handy for India to execute the evacuation operations.

India played smart. It did not openly condemn Saddam or directly negotiate with him over Indian community, fearing a backlash from international community. It worked its way up through back-door talks with the help of Katyal.

Eventually, joint efforts of Katyal and India led to a meeting between then External Affairs Minister I.K. Gujral and Saddam. The meeting was fruitful has the former dictator agreed to evacuate Indians from Kuwait in a phased manner.

Thus, on August 14 (12 days after the invasion), India began one of its largest evacuation operation. Air India, the cash-strapped state-run airlines, played a huge role in bringing back Indians safely.

Indian from across Kuwait reached Amman, from where they were flown back to India. Initially, military aircraft were used for the operations. However, due to logistical limitations, Air India was roped in for the task. The airlines brought back 1,70,000, in the biggest civilian operation, that lasted for 59 days, the world has ever seen. Later, the Air India also entered Guinness World Records for this feat.

So now you know the background of the story, enjoy the power-packed trailer here.

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