As Nepal continues to wrangle with the immediate aftermath of a devastating magnitude 8.1 earthquake that took place on Saturday and has claimed nearly 2,500 lives, its two large neighbors—India and China—are sending assistance to stave off a broader humanitarian crisis in the country. Nepal, though a small country, is of strategic significance for both New Delhi and Beijing.
On Sunday, China sent a 62-member International Search and Rescue team to Nepal to assist in the humanitarian relief effort following the earthquake. According to Xinhua, the team includes “6 sniffer dogs and relevant rescue and medical equipment.” 40 members of the rescue team are from the 38th Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army.
China President Xi Jinping expressed his condolences to Nepalese President Ram Baran Yada on Saturday, noting that “the Chinese side is willing to offer all necessary disaster assistance to the Nepalese side.” Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang issued his condolences to Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala.
Hong Lei, spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, noted late on Saturday that China was preparing emergency relief materials for Nepal, in addition to the search-and-rescue teams. China is additionally sending “20 million yuan in tents, blankets, generators and other materials to be sent by charter flights.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Koirala via Twitter that he could cou on India’s “support and assistance during this tough time.” Modi has placed a special emphasis on India’s relations with neighboring states in his foreign policy.
“My dear brothers and sisters of Nepal, India is with you in this hour of grief. … For 125 crore Indians, Nepal is their own. India will do its best to wipe the tears of every Nepali, hold their hands and stand with them,” Modi added during his monthly radio address, Mann Ki Baat.
The Indian response was particularly swift—hours after the first quake struck on Saturday, four Indian aircraft carrying 300 disaster-relief personnel had flown to Kathmandu to assist in search and rescue and humanitarian relief operations, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Indian Army launched a broader aid operation, entitled “Operation Maitri” (Maitri meaning friendship), on Sunday. Sitanshu Kar, the spokesperson for the Indian Defense Ministry, noted that “India is moving in massive amount of rescue and relief material, equipment and specialists the second day (Sunday).” On Sunday, an additional 10 Indian flights carrying medical personnel and humanitarian relief equipment, including food, water, and blankets, left for Nepal.
Both India and China, as two large powers bordering Nepal, will have an important role to play in the aftermath of this earthquake in Nepal. The Nepali government is facing widespread criticism from displaced residents over inadequate humanitarian provisions. Hospitals remain short on medical supplies to treat the wounded, and power shortages have resulted in broader chaos.