India has extended a helping hand to both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in their times of need after a cyclone hit the former and flooding claimed several lives in the latter. The disaster diplomacy — if we can call it that — has Indian Navy at the forefront, and can be seen as a step by India to boost its ties with the two countries whose cooperation the regional rival, China has also been seeking.
Aid to Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has been in the grip of massive floods triggered by heavy rain in the second half of May 2017. The death toll due to flood-related conditions is in hundreds right now, with millions displaced as water had submerged their houses.
With Sri Lankan disaster management authorities overwhelmed by the scale of the operations that would need to be mounted in the light of the deluge, Indian Navy has stepped in with aid in the form of not only food and medicine but also manpower.
Indian Navy has pressed several vessels into service in Sri Lanka. The first of these was INS Kirch, which arrived in Sri Lanka on May 27 with relief items and was received by Sri Lanka's Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake. After it left, it was the turn of INS Shardul to dock in Colombo and deliver aid to the flood-ravaged nation. INS Jalashwa has also delivered some relief material.
Now, Indian Navy is not only helping in the distribution of relief material in the flood-affected areas, but also helping in rescue operations.
Watch this video of Indian Navy personnel rescuing some canine companions:
Operating in Bangladesh
Meanwhile, Cyclone Mora has been wreaking havoc in Bangladesh. The tropical storm has forced a large-scale evacuation in the country, even as it brought torrential rain and high-speed winds. While both of these had been predicted, what had also been forecast was that the cyclone would bring heavy rain in West Bengal, Odisha and the North-Eastern states of India.
A PTI report has since said that six people have been killed because of the cyclone and incidents related to it. Evacuations are still underway in Bangladesh even as India has reached out to help.
Indian Navy has said that it has already rescued 27 people off the coast of Chittagong in Bangladesh with the help of INS Sumitra, which is delivering relief material in the country. Naval personnel are expected to help further in rescue and relief operations.
India and China have been jockeying for diplomatic and maritime supremacy in South and South-East Asia for quite some time now. China has been known to object to naval drills involving India, especially if they involve countries who may have a stake in the South China Sea. China has also repeatedly blocked India's bid to enter the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG), while saying Pakistan should also get in if India does.
Under these circumstances, India's increasing bonhomie with neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka could bode well for its diplomatic ventures not only in the region but also in global issues, where it can count on support from these countries.