In this article, we will discuss Operation Dost and India’s increasing profile as a first responder and net security provider.
- On 6th of February, a massive earthquake struck southern Turkiye and Syria affecting millions of people in the region.
- Immediately on receiving news of this tragedy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed that all possible assistance be extended to the affected people.
What is Operation Dost?
- Operation Dost is an ongoing search and rescue operation initiated by India to aid Syria and Turkey, after the 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquake devastated both countries on 6 February 2023.
- The Indian Army prepared its rescue teams with relief materials within 12 hours after disaster struck (much before the Turkish Army was mobilised).
How swiftly did India respond?
- Rescue ops: The NDRF has already flown close to 100 rescue workers along with dog squads to help with efforts, using specialised CSSR (Collapsed Structure Search and Rescue) equipment and techniques.
- Doctors’ dispatch: A military medical contingent has set up a field hospital in Turkiye for a 30-bed facility and specials, x-ray machines, ventilators, generators and ambulances
- Relief material: About 25 Tonnes of relief material, protective gear, clothes, emergency medicines, medical items have already reached, more to follow
- Tech support: India provided Garuda Aerospace’s drones to the most affected areas to identify those trapped under rubble, along with modified Kisan drones carrying medications, food, and supplies.
Central Idea: HADR Diplomacy
- Disaster relief diplomacy, also known as Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) diplomacy, refers to a country’s efforts to provide aid and support to other countries affected by natural disasters or conflicts.
- This approach to diplomacy involves a country’s deployment of personnel, resources, and aid to provide assistance to those in need.
- It involves the sharing of expertise, resources, and knowledge to provide relief and support during times of crisis.
Features of HADR Diplomacy
- Multipronged approach: HADR diplomacy is typically a multilateral effort, involving partnerships between multiple countries, international organizations, and local authorities. This approach allows for a coordinated response to a disaster and promotes international cooperation.
- Capacity-building: HADR diplomacy involves building up a country’s capacity to provide assistance during times of crisis. This includes training personnel, acquiring equipment and supplies, and developing disaster response plans.
- Focus on vulnerable populations: HADR diplomacy is often focused on supporting vulnerable populations affected by disasters, such as women, children, the elderly, and those with disabilities.
- Long-term support: HADR diplomacy goes beyond immediate disaster relief efforts and often involves long-term support for affected communities. This can include rebuilding infrastructure, providing healthcare and education, and promoting economic recovery.
- Emphasis on communication and information sharing: HADR diplomacy involves effective communication and information sharing between different agencies, governments, and organizations. This is essential for coordinating a response to a disaster and ensuring that resources are used effectively.
- Respect for local culture and customs: HADR diplomacy involves an understanding and respect for local culture and customs. This helps ensure that relief efforts are culturally appropriate and sensitive to the needs of the affected population.
Why is it used?
- Soft power tool: It is mixed with solidarity and empathy at a time when suffering populations require as much help as possible.
- Building ties: Disaster relief diplomacy can be used to build strong ties between countries and promote international cooperation.
- Responsible global actor: Disaster relief diplomacy can also serve as a means to demonstrate a country’s commitment to global humanitarian efforts and help build its reputation as a responsible global actor.
India and HADR Diplomacy
- India’s humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) capacities tying into its diplomacy have grown significantly. It began after the 2011 Tsunami.
- The Quad was also conceived out of an initial blueprint to build disaster response systems in the region.
Instances of India sending aid to natural disaster-hit countries
- Maldives: After the 2004 Tsunami, the Indian government announced a composite package worth five crore rupees. Under “Operation Castor”, 50 sorties were undertaken and four aircraft and two Naval ships were engaged in relief operations. Repairing and restoring generators and communication, providing drinking water, and setting up medical camps on ships was also done.
- Sri Lanka: India sent its forces to carry out rescue operations, called “Operation Rainbow”, in Sri Lanka hours after the Tsunami struck the country on December 26, 2004. Not only this, India provided medical assistance to thousands of victims by setting up medical camps in coordination with the local civil and military health authorities. Preventative medication and vaccines were also supplied.
- Myanmar: When cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in 2008 killing at least 20,000 people, India was among the first countries to send aid to them. It gave 125.5 tonnes of relief material, including medicines, clothing, utensils, water tanks, tents and tarpaulin.
- Japan: The 2011 Tsunami wreaked havoc in Japan. Apart from providing relief materials, India also sent 46 members of the NDRF to search and rescue in the town of Onagawa. It was their first overseas operation. The team included a doctor, three officers, six inspectors, two paramedics and constables and carried 9,000 kg of equipment and food.
- Nepal: In the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, the NDRF deployed 16 of its urban search and rescue (USAR) teams, which comprised more than 700 rescuers in the country. They rescued 11 injured persons and retrieved 133 dead bodies from the rubble. The teams also organised six medical camps and attended to 1,219 persons. Indian authorities sent more than 1,176 tonnes of relief materials to Nepal.
India’s traditional rivalry with Turkiye
Ankara’s long-standing stance on Kashmir and backing Pakistan, especially at the United Nations (UN), pushed some to ask why India was offering aid if Turkiye did not back India’s sovereignty.
Setting differences aside, why is India helping Turkey?
- In the case of India providing earthquake relief to Turkey, there are several factors that likely influenced India’s decision:
- Humanitarian considerations: The primary reason for providing assistance in times of disaster is to help those in need, regardless of political or strategic considerations. The earthquake in Turkey was a humanitarian crisis, and India likely felt compelled to provide assistance to help alleviate the suffering of those affected.
- Diplomatic reset: Disaster relief efforts can also serve as a means of promoting diplomatic relations between countries. By providing aid to Turkey, India may have been seeking to build goodwill and improve its relationship with the country.
- Shared interests: Despite past disagreements and conflicts, India and Turkey share some common history, culture and interests such as economic and strategic ties. Providing aid to Turkey may have been a way for India to demonstrate its commitment to these shared interests.
- International reputation: As a rising global power, India likely sees disaster relief efforts as a means of demonstrating its commitment to global humanitarian efforts and building its international reputation. By providing HADR, India has established itself as a responsible global actor.
- Cultural and people-to-people ties: India and Turkey share cultural and historical ties, with both countries having a rich cultural heritage. Ex. Ankara granting e-visa facilities to Indian tourists and Bollywood films being popular among Turkish masses.
While past conflicts and disagreements may influence international relations, countries often engage in aid and diplomatic efforts with countries they may have had past grievances with for a variety of reasons.
Diplomatically, what did India gain?
- Bilateral ties reset: In this case, India’s assistance to Turkiye comes at a time when ties are still tense- particularly over unwarranted Turkish statements and aids to radicalists in Kashmir.
- Global responder image: Especially in the year of India’s G20 presidency, India’s assistance burnishes its image as a leader of the developing world.
- Military capability on display: This disaster portrayed India’s swift response to rescue operations by mobilizing transporters, field hospitals, and technical teams within hours. It somehow portrays India’s preparedness for War.
- Improves response time: Op dost would help India with future calamities in India or anywhere in the world.
- Economic benefits: India’s HADR diplomacy has also brought economic benefits to the country. By providing aid and support to other countries, India has developed trade and economic relationships, and gained access to new markets and resources.
How can Turkiye benefit from this?
- Preferring India over appeasing Pakistan: It is becoming increasingly obvious that Turkey is getting disenchanted with Pakistan by and by, the most important factor behind its animosity towards India. The number of illegal Pakistanis.
- Battling domestic economic crisis: Turkey, which is undergoing a big economic crisis with historically high inflation of 80 percent, has to be pragmatic, not ideological, so as to win more friends than foes.
- Attracting more Indian tourists: Indians are now the third-largest Asian tourists in Turkey after China and Indonesia. Indian businesses, from food to technology, have been gradually expanding their presence in Turkey.
- Rebuking its ideals of Khilafat: Turkey perhaps realizes now its failure to emerge as the leader a grouping consisting of Pakistan, Malaysia, Iran, and Qatar, in an attempt to break Saudi and UAE’s ideological supremacy within the Islamic world.
- Rebuilding ties with Israel: Turkey re-established diplomatic relations with Israel after more than a decade of tensions that erupted in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists in Gaza. India can help them come closer.
- Providing relief and aid to not just neighboring, but in the extended neighborhood of West Asia bodes well for the kind of diplomacy India is aiming to conduct in the future.
- Public diplomacy, such as HADR capacities, remains one of the most effective tools to build capacities on a people-to-people level, conduct of which needs to be done in a humble way.
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