Neighbors: Friends in need
On Nov 3, Nepal was struck by a devastating 6.4-magnitude earthquake, centered in Jajarkot within the remote Karnali province. This natural disaster left the nation in urgent need of assistance to rescue victims and provide essential relief materials and shelter. The government swiftly undertook rescue efforts at the epicenter and other severely affected areas by deploying the Nepal Army and other security forces. However, a significant gap emerged in providing essential aid to those most affected, leaving many stranded without proper shelter.
The earthquake claimed the lives of at least 157 people, with nearly 400 individuals sustaining injuries across Nepal and parts of India. The dire situation worsened due to the government’s involvement in petty politics when it came to distributing relief materials. Instead of focusing on impartial aid distribution, the ruling parties showed favoritism by prioritizing their own supporters and cadres. This division in aid allocation further exacerbated the suffering of those already grappling with the aftermath of the disaster.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, Nepal’s immediate neighbors, India and China, stepped up to provide crucial support to the affected areas. Additionally, ambassadors from various nations expressed deep condolences for the lives lost in the earthquake and offered readiness to extend support to Nepal during this challenging time. Collaborative efforts of the neighboring countries and the international community played a pivotal role in assisting Nepal’s relief and recovery endeavors after the disaster struck.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first to extend assistance to Nepal in the wake of the earthquake. Expressing deep sorrow for the loss of lives and damage caused, Modi tweeted his condolences and pledged India’s unwavering support. “India stands in solidarity with the people of Nepal and is prepared to provide all possible assistance. Our thoughts are with the bereaved families, and we wish the injured a speedy recovery.”
India promptly fulfilled Prime Minister Modi’s commitment by delivering the initial phase of relief materials to Nepal on Nov 5. From the Nepalgunj Airport, two truck-loads of essential supplies, accompanied with a security team, were dispatched to Jajarkot and Rukum Paschim. India’s Ambassador to Nepal, Naveen Srivastava, handed over the relief to Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Purna Bahadur Khadka. The aid package comprised 625 units of plastic tarpaulin and tents, 1,000 sleeping bags, 1,000 blankets, 70 large-size tents, 35 packets of tent accessories, medicines and 48 other assorted articles, among other essentials.
On Nov 6, India continued its support by delivering a second consignment of relief materials for the disaster-affected families. The Deputy Chief of Mission, Prasanna Shrivastava, presented the second consignment to Nepal as part of the ongoing aid efforts.
In the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake, India had been the first country to swiftly provide vital support to Nepal. Maintaining this commitment, India remained steadfast in extending comprehensive assistance to Nepal in the wake of the Jajarkot earthquake. Prime Minister Modi reiterated Indian support to Nepal, emphasizing the significance of assisting neighboring countries during times of crisis and how India continues to stand by its neighbors in times of need.
China, the northern neighbor, also supported Nepal. On Nov 9, two Chinese cargo planes arrived at the airport carrying 600 cotton tents and 4,600 blankets.
China’s Ambassador to Nepal, Chen Song, handed over the relief package to Nepal’s Home Minister, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, who acknowledged China’s consistent support for Nepal’s economic development and emphasized their assistance during critical times, such as the 2015 earthquakes and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ambassador Chen highlighted the significance of the relief materials, portraying a strong connection between China and Nepal, characterized by shared mountains and rivers, and a bond of mutual assistance. These supplies symbolize China’s commitment to fostering a community with a shared future for all mankind, he said. This crucial support entered Nepal via the Kerung-Rasuwagadhi border point, facilitated by the Chinese Embassy in Nepal. Additionally, the China International Development Cooperation Agency announced a supplementary batch of emergency humanitarian assistance for Nepal. Furthermore, the Red Cross Society of China offered emergency cash assistance to aid Nepal’s rescue and relief endeavors in the earthquake-affected areas.
During an official visit to Nepal, Communist Party of China’s Tibet secretary Wang Junzheng announced further support for Nepal while paying a courtesy call on Prime Minister Puspha Kamal Dahal. Also, CPC’s International Department (CPCID) extended support to Nepal through party channels. Leaders from Nepal’s major four parties facilitated the distribution of the materials received thus to the affected regions.
India and China, as emerging powers and our neighbors, have demonstrated their unwavering support for Nepal in times of crisis. The immediate assistance provided after the earthquake showcased their genuine friendship and solidarity with Nepal in times of need. The border disputes and conflicts between India and China are bilateral issues that Nepal regards as internal matters of the neighbors. How they navigate and develop their relations with the US is their prerogative, and Nepal can only urge both nations to peacefully resolve their disputes through diplomatic channels.
Nepal perceives India and China not as challenges but as opportunities. Their swift aid during this crisis underscores the importance of regional cooperation and mutual assistance in times of adversities. It's crucial for Nepali leaders to recognize that while Nepal benefits from neighborly support, it’s equally important to ensure respect for genuine interests of the neighbors.
Shared borders and cultural ties mean disputes can crop up because of close proximity. Prime Minister Modi’s ‘neighborhood first’ policy has consistently supported Nepal, just as President Xi Jinping’s ‘peripheral diplomacy’ has guided China’s support to Nepal within this framework.
Nepal must uphold its national interests and sovereignty while engaging with its neighbors. It’s essential not to display bias in dealings with them. Nepal should adopt a pragmatic approach and openly discuss issues. If there are discrepancies or missteps from either neighbor, Nepal should seek rectification in a transparent manner. Nepal’s stance, whether in protest or support toward India and China, should be guided by specific issues and remain issue-centric.
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