CDS General Bipin Rawat, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of the Army Staff General MM Naravane and Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria during a press conference

The top military brass on Friday said the armed forces were ready to play their role in evacuation of thousands of Indians stranded in the Gulf and other regions as a sizeable number of aircraft and naval ships have been put on stand-by for the mission.

The government is working on a mega plan to evacuate the Indians stranded in various parts of the world due to the coronavirus lockdown.

"We will extend whatever support is required," Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat said addressing a press conference along with the three service chiefs.

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said a fleet of transport aircraft is on stand-by and his force will undertake any task whenever assigned to it by the government.

Officials said the IAF has kept around 30 aircraft ready for the evacuation mission. The IAF has already brought back hundreds of people from China and Iran.

It has also been playing a key role in transporting medical supplies to various parts of the country as well as to several friendly nations in the past several weeks.

Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh said the Navy is also ready to play its role in evacuation of stranded Indians.

"Our ships are ready. We are fully ready," he said.

The government has already reached out to several states asking them to make necessary arrangements for the Indians when they are brought back home under the multi-agency operation.

The Civil Aviation Ministry has conveyed to the core group planning the operation that it is ready to make available majority of the nearly 650 commercial planes including freighters for the mission, sources said.

The evacuation mission is likely to be the biggest after the 'Operation Raahat' when India brought back over 6,700 people, including citizens from 41 countries, from strife-torn Yemen in 2015.

The Navy has identified the INS Jalashwa, an amphibious ship, and two other landing ship tanks for the operation.

The INS Jalashwa, capable of carrying out amphibious operations as well as search and rescue missions, can transport over 1,000 people. Indian naval ships Mumbai, Tarkash and Sumitra were part of the 'Operation Raahat'.

The sources said the priority will be to evacuate the Indians from the Gulf nation following which the government will try to bring back those stranded in Europe and other parts of the globe.

It is not immediately clear how many Indians the government plans to bring back home. As a matter of policy, New Delhi decided not to bring back the stranded Indians from abroad till the nationwide lockdown ends.

Around eight million Indians are living in the Gulf countries and there has been growing anxiety among them over their livelihood in view of the pandemic as it has majorly impacted the oil-driven economy of the region. Some of the Indians in the Gulf want to return home.

It is learnt that Indian missions in the region have been told to identify people who wants to return home.

Almost all Gulf countries have taken a series of drastic measures including imposing total lockdown, travel restrictions and even closing borders to stem the spread of the coronavirus infection.

In a video-conference with chief ministers on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said evacuation of Indians has to be done keeping in mind the fact that they don’t get inconvenienced and their families are not under any risk.

Over the last few weeks, Modi has been holding consultations with leaders of several Gulf nations, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with whom he spoke on March 17 to discuss the COVID-19 situation.

Modi has also spoken to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al Thani, Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and Bahraini King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa.

During these discussions, one of the primary issues raised by Prime Minister Modi was the well-being of the Indian diaspora in these nations, officials said.