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India to offer expertise to tsunami-hit countries

Thursday 6 January 2005, by SURYANARAYANA*P.S.

JAKARTA, JAN. 5. India is likely to offer the tsunami-affected countries help based on the skills that have been acquired on the "frontline" of managing natural disasters.

The External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, indicated on the eve of the conference that the gesture would be made at the one-day extraordinary multilateral summit to be held here tomorrow to address the tsunami crisis in the Indian Ocean region.

Mr. Singh will represent India at the meeting which will be attended by the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, leaders from the United States and others in the "core group," besides China, Japan, and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) which took the initiative for the conference.

A document produced by India’s Disaster Management Group will be circulated among the participants. The document was reflective of what "India is doing, can do and how we are right in the frontline," Mr. Singh said.

Pointing out how New Delhi has already rushed to the help of Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Indonesia and Thailand, Mr. Singh turned the spotlight on what might come to be known as India’s skill-derived offer. He said: "We are in a position to provide training for the search and rescue teams and setting up web-based disaster-management information systems." India now possessed a "world class infrastructure" for dealing with natural calamities.

Coincidentally, a hospital ship and another vessel laden with humanitarian supplies worth $1 million, both provided by India, arrived in Indonesia on the eve of the summit.

Answering questions on the role and relevance of the "core group" and the circumstances in which it came into being at the U.S. initiative, the External Affairs Minister said he did not think there was any controversy over the genesis of the group for "a major humanitarian work". New Delhi’s participation was traceable to the recognition that "India has the experience, the expertise and the capacity and the wherewithal to be able to assist in this [tsunami relief] in spite of India itself being badly hit". It was also widely known that India was "the larger country in the [affected] area having the equipment and the reach and the experience" to render help.

On the U.S. being seen to be jockeying for a "leadership role" in the tsunami relief efforts, Mr. Singh said: "We are not getting into this. Our relations with the United Nations are very good. Whatever the U.N. wants, if we can do, we will certainly do. It is not a game of one-upmanship. Lives are involved... We have always said the U.N. should be involved. It is the international agency par excellence to deal with such situations. That is why the [U.N.] Secretary General is here."

See online : The Hindu

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