Despite all the pain and horror associated with natural disasters, they do sometimes give rise to the best elements of the human spirit. The Indian government, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was the first to send in aid, with supplies starting within hours of Saturday’s killer quake in Nepal. News reports on Monday have stated that nearly two dozen aircraft, including heavy lift aircrafts and hundreds of personnel from the Indian military and National Disaster Response Force are involved in intensive relief efforts. The focus of India’s relief efforts has also extended to the deployment of medical and engineering teams. By participating in one its largest relief efforts on foreign soil, the Indian establishment has done itself proud.
Prime Minister Modi on Sunday made it categorically clear that in Nepal’s time of sorrow and heartache, India will go above and beyond what is required to alleviate its neighbour’s pain following the earthquake. The Indian government, however, is not conducting these relief efforts out of a higher calling. Unbeknownst to some, the Indian army has 55,000 serving Gorkha soldiers and many more retired veterans in Nepal. In fact the Indian Army is led by General Dalbir Singh Suhag, a Gorkha regiment officer. The Indian Army runs many recruitment centres, especially in the hinterland and remote corners of Nepal, where relief is an arduous task. More than our armed forces, however, Nepal has also become a major reservoir for manual labour, both in the organised and unorganised sector. To put this statement in context, the bulk of the reconstruction work in Uttarakhand, after the devastating floods in 2013, had been done by Nepali workers.
The scale of devastation, especially to Nepal’s infrastructure, is massive. India must continue to play an integral part in relief efforts, beyond the media glare. It’s only fair if we do, considering the service Nepal’s citizens have performed for India.