NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has won many friends by evacuating nearly 1,000 nationals of 41 countries from warring Yemen, with the operation led by an irascible former general coming as a welcome moment of pride for a nation that aspires to emerge as a global player.
Foreign office minister V.K. Singh returned to a hero's welcome on Friday, having joined several Air India [AIN.UL] flights into the Yemeni capital Sanaa to evacuate people from the conflict there to Djibouti.
"The bombings are still on," the former army chief of staff told reporters at Delhi airport. "There was trouble in evacuating them, yet we did our task."
Along with some 4,600 Indians, Singh's mission rescued citizens of Britain, France and the United States, a symbolic step in a country sensitive about its reliance on foreign aid in the decades following independence in 1947.
Indian media and government officials this week gleefully circulated a screenshot of CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer talking about India's rescue of U.S. citizens.
The evacuation from Yemen also provided a rare chance for arch-rivals India and Pakistan to look beyond hostilities, as 11 Indians were evacuated by the Pakistani navy and flown home, winning a vote of thanks from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Three Pakistanis also made it out on Indian transport.
The Ministry of External Affairs said India had now ended the rescue effort. It will close its embassy in Sanaa, where Saudi Arabia has launched air strikes against Iranian-allied Houthi rebels.
(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld in Islamabad; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)