Quake response marks new phase in diplomacy
The new phase in India’s ‘disaster diplomacy’, has been initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.
On Sunday, foreign secretary S Jaishankar was preparing to address the media on the Nepal earthquake on his own at 5 pm. Just before the briefing, a decision was taken at the highest level that he should brief along with home secretary L C Goyal and defence secretary R K Mathur.
Thus began a new phase in India’s “disaster diplomacy”, initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.
Jaishankar, Goyal and Mathur were seen again on Monday in a briefing on the Indian government’s rescue and relief efforts. It was the foreign secretary who summed up the Indian government’s approach: “Every part of the Indian system is making its contribution.”
In what is being seen as India’s biggest intervention in rescue and relief operations in the neighbourhood in at least a decade, the country has pressed aircraft, sent disaster management personnel and given food and medicines for those in need.
And, with Modi leading the efforts from the front, India’s ‘disaster diplomacy’ is being perceived to be a proactive government initiative. Even the Twitter accounts of Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as well as the spokespersons of the ministries of defence and external affairs are being used to project this approach.
Officials say this is meant to highlight Modi’s leadership role in the subcontinent, as enunciated by the PM during the SAARC summit in Kathmandu in November 2014. It is also being seen as an outcome of India’s enhanced disaster management capability. Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said, “We were active when the Tsunami struck in December 2004. We were the first go to Sri Lanka. It is not surprising we have moved in so quickly this time. New aircraft from the US have helped our ability to move faster.”
What has stood out this time, said Sibal, is the “nature of our reaction”.
“The PM speaks a language of empathy — that he wants to wipe the tears of Nepal. That’s effective diplomacy. I can’t imagine the Chinese saying this. That’s astute of Modi,” Sibal said.
Significantly, Modi had visited Nepal twice in the first six months of his tenure.
Former Indian diplomat K C Singh pointed out that Modi had managed relief operations even during the Bhuj earthquake. “There is more bounce in the step of this government,” he said. He added that whenever there have been natural disasters in the neighbourhood, New Delhi has come forward to help. “This is long-sighted diplomacy,” Singh said.
Former deputy NSA Leela K Ponappa said, “We are perhaps more well organised now, based on past experiences and better equipment.
We moved in quickly in 2004 when the tsunami struck. We did the same in Myanmar when cyclone Nargis hit. In 1998, when Bangladesh had floods, India supplied 20,000 tonnes of rice. India does not always sufficiently publicise all that it does.”
Source:: Indian Express