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Counting on India

Counting on India
In the midst of the unsavoury taste of “Beef Masala” to Nepal Earthquake victims and photographs of little ones cuddling each other going viral has undoubtedly shaken the entire world since April 25, when the Himalayan nation was <g data-gr-id="114">stuck</g> with a devastating earthquake and again on May 7.

Having an impact of 7.9 on Richter Scale, killing more than 8,000 people, India immediately called “Operation Maitri”. But between the tremors when Nepal was bleeding, the act of parochial approach by some foreign relief providers has also triggered a diplomatic acrimony between India and the <g data-gr-id="92">neigbouring</g> countries.

At a time when the Nepal government was fuming over old clothes and Beef Masala sent to the victims, India continues to engage sensibly in the relief and rescue operation. And, this happened even after Nepal government has asked some of the countries to stop helping them in rebuilding the nation.

“We are thankful to India for its aid and support towards us. Pakistan has hurt Nepal’s religious sentiments by supplying Beef Masala by ignoring the sensitivity of the matter. They should know that cow is sacred in Nepal and there is a ban on cow slaughtering in our country. The Nepal government should raise the issue at the diplomatic level,” Basanta Dhakal, a professor based in Nepal told Millennium Post over <g data-gr-id="97">telephone</g>.

Within hours after the earthquake struck the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called Nepal’s President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala to say that India is with them and promised to wipe the tears of every Nepali.

Four Indian Air Force planes backed with three C-130J Super Hercules were immediately rushed to Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu with dry food, blankets, a mobile field hospital, and a team of search and rescue experts.

A day after India’s prompt generosity was recognised – and other countries taken aback by it – as UAV (Netra) is being sent to Nepal from National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) besides 43 sorties by the Air Force including transport aircraft (16), Helicopters (27), four C-17, three IL-76, two AN-32, Six MLH etc. In order to ensure proper communication, International Maritime Satellite Organisation (INMARSAT) was established at Nepalese Army HQ (Kathmandu) forcing Pakistan and China to relook <g data-gr-id="105">in to</g> their aid and supports to Nepal. Same day, the first batch of about 60 Indians was rescued from Kathmandu, which forced the Nepal government to say, “We are indebted to India for help, the way the country took the lead in the relief operations in Nepal.”

The message was clear – being the largest rescue team in Nepal ahead of China and Pakistan – Nepal wants India, compare to others, to be with them in this moment of crises. The others were asked to stop the relief operation. Such was the priority that Modi asked top bureaucrats - National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar – to personally review the rescue operations being carried out by the Indian relief agencies. Ever since the devastated tremor ravaged the country, diplomatic aid started pouring in - with neighbouring countries leaving no stone unturned to prove their priorities when it came to Nepal.

Pakistan too tried, but drew severe criticism after they send “Beef Masala” to the victims <g data-gr-id="102">and</g> on the contrary, the India army, IAF, doctors, and disaster management are at war footing in the rescue operations. Since slaughtering of <g data-gr-id="100">cow</g> is banned in Nepal, finding “Beef Masala” in relief packets from Pakistan added nothing but made the victims angry. Speaking to Millennium Post over telephone Nepal’s Home Ministry spokesperson, Laxmi Prasad Dhakal said, “The earthquake has left us shattered and now the biggest challenge is to give Nepal back its lost glory, besides saving the antiques which came out from the ravaged temples. We are thankful to the Indian Prime Minister for his immediate support to us.”

Days passed, bodies started tumbling out of debris from historical buildings and houses, children were orphaned, girls became vulnerable to trafficking, and Nepal lost all its glory, which it retained for centuries, leaving the entire nation – once again – in a worst ever crisis. Already, the country was struggling for the last eight years without any government and when it was waiting for a new dawn the earthquake snatched everything, which it had tried to recollect in recent months.

India’s noticeable presence on the difficult and treacherous terrains in Nepal has overshadowed other foreign aid. India’s response to the disaster in Nepal was prompt and across all sectors. Going with the commitment of the new NDA government, it seems that India is slowly projecting itself as a “smart power” nation. In <g data-gr-id="96">diplomacy</g> this means achieving targets through attraction and not by force aiming to <g data-gr-id="95">becoming</g> a nation, that other countries will not afford to neglect.

Many feel that India’s aim to become a “smart power” nation was evident when the Prime Minister made his mark firmly on foreign neighbours with invitations to all heads of government of South Asia to attend his swearing-in-ceremony on May 26. It was a clear message to China that India is looking at the entire South Asia as its “garden” – where they will together nurture development and bonding. Keeping this message <g data-gr-id="98">bold</g> and standing by Nepal in its hour of need – only shows India’s clear intention of becoming a soft power, when China is flexing muscles in the bordering terrain.

In recent past India has built its reputation as an efficient and trustworthy neighbour and this was prominent when the country undertook some of the biggest rescue missions in Yemen, Libya, Iraq, etc. evacuating not only Indians but also foreigners from other countries. Contrary to this, China sent its warships only to evacuate its own nationals from <g data-gr-id="86">war-zones</g> in Yemen, ignoring other victims.
India’s out of the box approach towards foreign countries and its nationals should be termed as a 
<g data-gr-id="79">symbolic</g> step towards flaunting its “soft power” status. This was also visible when Maldives had faced a crisis following a massive fire in Male’s water treatment plant in last December. India responded immediately and sent huge consignments of drinking water to Maldives.

India’s new foreign policy was also admired by Australia when it signed a deal to sell uranium to India citing reason that India threatens no one and is a friend to many. Taking the same international image further, in Nepal too India expressed itself as “a friend in need is friend indeed”. Some might feel that it was India’s Disaster Diplomacy towards Nepal, but the fact is India has deep historical, cultural, and people-to-people ties with the country and the aid provided to them is nothing but a gut reaction.

Though on the 13th day of the tragedy (May 7), Nepal has ended a period of mourning that is customary in Hindu religion, but it will take decades to bring back happiness and prosperity among the people of Nepal.

As another  7.3 intensity  earthquake hit near Kathmandu to compound the woes, Nepal has India to count on for relief measures.

Presently the Indian engineers, town planners, and diplomats are camping in Nepal to rebuild the nation and Modi is planning to increase fund allocation for the country to fulfill new foreign commitments in addition to the old ones. “India is moving in massive amount of rescue and relief material, equipment, and specialists in Nepal,” Sitanshu Kar, the spokesperson for the Defence Ministry, one of the tweets read.

Why Nepal is still being hit

As it happened 
According to the US Geological Survey, Tuesday’s quake measured 7.3 on the Magnitude Scale, which succeeded the Richter scale in the 1970s, and struck 50 miles east of the capital Kathmandu, close to Mount Everest. 

What next?
The greater the size of the earthquake, the higher the number of aftershocks. With any major earthquake, there will always be aftershocks. These can continue for weeks, months and even years. 

Could the next be worse?
Sometimes, aftershocks can be larger than the original earthquake, in fact making the original quake a foreshock, tremors that occur before and in the same area as the mainshock. But foreshocks can only be identified once the mainshock has occurred.
Sujit Nath

Sujit Nath

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