The devastating earthquake on 25 April 2015, with a magnitude of 7.6 Richter Scale and hundreds of aftershocks, caused a significant impact on the lives of over eight million people across Nepal. The Post Disaster Needs Assessment, 2015, published by the National Planning Commission, reported more than 8,000 deaths and property damage worth approximately USD 7 billion.
Nepal ranks 11th globally in terms of vulnerability to earthquakes. As soon as the news of the Nepal Earthquake broke, there was overwhelming commitment and subsequent support from the neighbouring countries, and India was the first to respond. It was reported that the then Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who was in Bangkok, knew of the earthquake through the Indian Prime Minister’s tweet. India dispatched relief materials and rescue teams immediately.
The Indian government initiated Operation Maitri and launched a humanitarian mission, dispatched National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams and special aircraft with rescue and relief materials in Nepal. India released INR 96 crores (around 154 crore Nepali rupees) to Nepal for housing and school sector assistance. Under the post-earthquake reconstruction package, India allocated a grant of USD 250 million, including USD 50 million each for the education, cultural heritage, and health sector and USD 100 million for the housing sector.
When a crisis occurs, Nepal looks up to India. India, our closest neighbor, has always helped Nepal in the difficult hours. During this crisis, India provided immediate responses and timely decision-making. Furthermore, a swift emergency response was possible because of connected borders, friendly ties and institutional relations between the two nations. Close bilateral relations, including fraternal relations between the two countries’ militaries, provided the basis for swift support.
India experienced some hiccups during the support. Despite widespread help, Indian media faced a backlash for their insensitive reporting, which made the hashtag #GoHomeIndianMedia trend on Twitter.
The India-imposed economic blockade towards the end of the year escalated the humanitarian crisis, though. Moreover, the blockade un-did the goodwill India had garnered from the support. It has left a long-lasting anti-India sentiment among the general populace.
Disaster response is an additional dimension in Nepal-India relations. Other disasters such as floods affect both countries. They have established common mechanisms to deal with such issues, but their workings are unsatisfactory. It would benefit both countries to strengthen disaster cooperation, for it is less prone to conflict and garners goodwill for each other.