India’s engagement with the world and especially the Indian Ocean Region has been robustly strong, said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday while lauding the Armed Forces for being the first responder in the region for humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations.
“India’s unique position in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), complemented by a capability of the Armed Forces, enables it to contribute significantly in humanitarian aid and disaster relief situations,” said Singh while virtually inaugurating the 5th World Congress on Disaster Management.
He said that the armed forces have time and again demonstrated that they care for and stand by the country’s partners in times of need without distinguishing between natural or man-made disasters.
The minister reiterated India’s vision for the Indian Ocean encapsulated by the concept of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) as articulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Singh underlined that SAGAR has both distinct and inter-related elements such as deepening economic and security cooperation among the littoral states, enhancing capacities to safeguard land and maritime territories, working towards sustainable regional development, Blue Economy and promoting collective action to deal with non-traditional threats like natural disasters, piracy and terrorism.
He maintained that while each of these elements require equal attention, developing an effective response mechanism to address humanitarian crises and natural disasters is one of the most important pillars of SAGAR.
Singh made special mention of some notable humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions in the IOR undertaken by India in recent years, including Operation Rahat in Yemen in 2015 when India rescued and evacuated over 6,700 persons, including over 1,940 citizens of more than 40 other countries, cyclone in Sri Lanka in 2016, earthquake in Indonesia in 2019, Cyclone Idai in Mozambique and flooding and landslides in Madagascar in January 2020 where Indian assistance was promptly provided.
He added that the Covid-19 pandemic has not dented India’s commitment, which was demonstrated by India’s response during the oil spill in Mauritius in August 2020 and the oil tanker fire in Sri Lanka in September 2020.
India taking the lead and offering expertise of Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (DRI) to friendly countries was also highlighted by Rajnath Singh.
“Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) was first proposed by India during the 2016 Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in New Delhi. It is today an international coalition of countries, United Nations (UN) agencies, multilateral development banks, the private sector and academic institutions, that aim to promote disaster-resilient infrastructure,” he said.
Singh added that India has been regularly conducting exercises to deepen the HADR co-operation and co-ordination with its neighbours and friendly countries with a focus on sharing expertise and building capabilities.
He called for cooperating more closely to strengthen international architecture for building structures to prevent and manage future disasters.
He also suggested a comprehensive assessment of the impact of the pandemic on the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, emphasising on the need to incorporate new ideas in global and national strategies for the implementation of the goals.
The 5th World Congress on Disaster Management (WCDM) has been organised in New Delhi from November 24-27, at the campus of IIT Delhi on the overarching theme of Technology, Finance and Capacity for Building Resilience to Disasters in the context of Covid-19.