India announces $1-billion aid for rebuilding Nepal

KATHMANDU: India today pledged $1 billion in assistance to quake-ravaged Nepal for its massive reconstruction programme, asserting that it will strongly stand behind the Nepalese government which is seeking to “wipe the tears” of every Nepali. The announcement was made by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during an international donors’ conference here.

India announces $1-billion aid for rebuilding Nepal

Rescue workers remove debris as they search for victims of earthquake in Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu. AP/PTI file photo

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Kathmandu, June 25

India today pledged $1 billion in assistance to quake-ravaged Nepal for its massive reconstruction programme, asserting that it will strongly stand behind the Nepalese government which is seeking to “wipe the tears” of every Nepali.

The announcement was made by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during an international donors’ conference here.

Swaraj hoped that a “stronger, united and more confident Nepal will rise” from the debris of destruction.

She said one fourth of the $1 billion assistance will be grant and it will be over and above India’s existing bilateral developmental assistance of another $1 billion over the next five years which takes the total assistance to $2 billion.

Swaraj conveyed India’s “deep and abiding commitment” to rebuilding of Nepal and highlighted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi ensured a prompt rescue and relief operation within six hours of the 7.9-magnitude April 25 earthquake.

“Today I convey to you the deep and abiding commitment of the government and 1.25 billion people of India and the personal commitment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as you seek to wipe the tears of every Nepali,” Swaraj said.

“We reacted as if a disaster had struck India,” Swaraj said.

There has been an overwhelming outpouring of sympathy, support and solidarity with Nepal and people in India “opened their hearts” to come to the country’s assistance, she said.

The International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction has been organised by the Nepalese government to raise funds for rebuilding the country devasted by a powerful earthquake that struck exactly two months back on April 25, killing about 9,000 people and injuring around 23,000 others besides flattening over five lakh houses.

“I am happy to announce Government of India’s pledge for Nepal’s post-earthquake reconstruction of Nepali Rupees 10,000 crores, equivalent to one billion US dollars, one fourth of it as Grant,” Swaraj said.

“This pledge is over and above our existing bilateral developmental assistance of another one billion US dollars over the next five years, forty per cent of which would be Grant,” she said.

The conference was attended by several countries, including China, Britain, Norway, Japan, Sri Lanka, the European Union besides the UN, World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

“I salute the resilience of the people of Nepal and reassure you of India’s full support. The terrible disaster and continuing aftershocks have not diminished the indomitable spirit of the Nepalese people. They are calm and dignified in their tragedy,” Swaraj said.

“I see a quiet confidence and a steely determination as they seek to rebuild their lives and their communities. Every challenge is an opportunity. Out of adversity comes strength.

“Without doubt, from the debris of destruction, a stronger, united and more confident Nepal will rise,” Swaraj said.

Emphasising that the entire world celebrated the first international Yoga Day, symbolising the coming together for a common, higher purpose, Swaraj said, “Today, let us take inspiration from the ancient philosophy of Yoga and join hands to create a more resilient Nepal.”

Talking about ties between the two neighbours, she said “Ours is a ‘Roti-Beti ka Sambandh’ (a bond of family and kinship).”

The External Affairs Minister said India’s response was “swift, spontaneous and substantive” as its rescue teams arrived in Nepal within six hours of the earthquake.

“Operation Maitri was our largest ever disaster assistance effort abroad, valued at nearly four billion Indian Rupees. But what is important is not that this support was larger than other foreign countries; what matters is the strong feeling of empathy and the instantaneous, instinctive and heart-felt response from Indians for their Nepali brothers and sisters,” Swaraj said.

Observing that Nepal’s challenge would be to ensure efficient and transparent utilisation of the funds, Swaraj said India will continue to work closely with the Nepalese government.

She also congratulated the National Planning Commission of Nepal for their comprehensive recovery needs assessment, prepared in collaboration with more than 200 international experts.

“The PDNA (Post Disaster Needs Assessment) has been a participatory and credible international effort, to which India was privileged to contribute. It will be the framework for donors to finalise their relief packages and pledges,” she said.

The PDNA report estimates huge reconstruction needs of USD 6.7 billion.

“Mobilisation of resources of this magnitude is a challenging task. But Nepal is not alone...India stands ready to provide a lead and shoulder its responsibilities towards Nepal, our oldest and closest friend and neighbour,” she said.

Swaraj said India stands ready to depute its professionals to share their expertise and experience in Nepal’s reconstruction efforts.

She said India can share its expertise in sectors including agriculture, housing, roads and transport, electricity, health, education, cultural heritage, and disaster risk reduction.

Noting that the two visits of Prime Minister Modi to Nepal have given a significant impetus to bilateral cooperation, Swaraj said, “Hydropower projects now need to be speedily implemented and work on construction of the Kathmandu-Nijgadh fast track road and the Nijgadh airport with India’s participation should be expedited.”

These projects will create new job opportunities, contribute to revenue, and facilitate long-term recovery,” she said.

Nepal lauds Modi's role in helping quake-hit people

Nepal today thanked India for its “tremendous assistance” and lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for playing an important role in ensuring that the quake-hit country gets back on its feet as soon as possible.

Nepal’s appreciation for Prime Minister Modi was conveyed by President Ram Baran Yadav to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj when she called on him here.

“The President was very appreciative of the tremendous assistance that India has rendered to Nepal in its hour of crisis. He specifically mentioned about the important role Prime Minister Narendra Modi has personally played in ensuring that Nepal gets back on its feet as soon as possible,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

India had responded promptly after the quake struck Nepal, dispatching a large number of rescue teams, doctors and disaster relief experts. The Indian Air Force and the army had also deployed helicopters and transport aircraft for rescue effort and to reach relief.— PTI

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