Saturday 3 December 2016

Offers of help reveal subtle brand of disaster politics

Didi Tang in Beijing

Published 28/04/2015 | 02:30

An injured boy sleeps on the ground outside the overcrowded Dhading hospital in Nepal. Photo: Reuters
An injured boy sleeps on the ground outside the overcrowded Dhading hospital in Nepal. Photo: Reuters
Victims of the earthquake rest inside an Indian Air Force helicopter as they are evacuated from Trishuli Bazar to the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: Reuters
Television presenter Amanda Holden (right) has revealed that her sister, Debbie (left), was trapped on Mount Everest after the earthquake in Nepal.
A rescue helicopter is shown at the Mount Everest south base camp in Nepal a day after a huge earthquake-caused avalanche killed at least 17 people (REUTERS/6summitschallenge.com)
An aerial view of tents setup by residents in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. Shelter, fuel, food, medicine, power, news, workers - Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
Rescue team members from Nepal, Turkey and China work during the rescue operation to rescue live victims trapped inside the collapsed hotel after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal. Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar

Wedged between the two rising Asian powers of China and India, landlocked Nepal watched rescuers and offers of help pour in from both sides within hours of an earthquake that killed more than 4,000 people.

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India, the traditional power in the region, launched Operation Friendship soon after the earthquake on Saturday. It has sent the most help so far, deploying 13 aircraft and more than 500 rescuers as well as water, food, equipment and medical supplies.

China, increasingly making inroads in Nepal through everything from infrastructure investment to increased tourism, also pledged all-out assistance within hours of the disaster. It has sent 62 rescuers plus blankets, tents and generators and announced plans to send four planes and an additional 170 soldiers.

The largesse of recent days is a microcosm of something much larger. It represents a subtle brand of disaster politics, a curious but understandable focus on strategically located Nepal, one of the poorest nations in its region but - clearly - a pocket of strategic importance for powerful neighbours jockeying for position.

Nepal's population of 27 million traditionally has fallen under India's economic and political sway. India, also a predominantly Hindu nation, considers Nepal within its traditional sphere of influence, and as many as three million Nepalese live and work in India.

But recent years have seen Nepal forge closer ties with China as a counterweight, and the Nepalese government has assured Beijing that it will not tolerate any anti-China political activism by Tibetans in Nepal.

Beijing, meanwhile, is eager to court the Nepalese government as it opens trade routes south and westward and seeks to keep the neighbouring country's exiled Tibetan community from fomenting unrest across the border in Tibet.

Irish Independent

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