India refuses foreign aid for Kerala flood relief

Kerala, natural disasters, disaster management capability, India, floods,
Kerala's (K)alamity; a lesson for India to up its disaster management capabilities

The Indian government has instructed all its missions abroad to decline offers of aid from foreign governments for flood-hit Kerala. India has decided to stick to its 2004 policy of not accepting aid unless India cannot handle the crisis.

In a note to the Indian missions, the Ministry of External Affairs has asked the envoys to express ‘appreciation’ but point out that early indicators show that India has the ‘capacity’ to meet the requirements of the people of Kerala.

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Many foreign governments offered aid, assistance and technical support to help the state of Kerala deal with the crisis. One of the biggest pledges came from UAE, which has a huge population of people from Kerala. UAE has pledged Rs 700 crores towards relief and rehabilitation efforts.

Prime Minister of UAE and the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum in a tweet said, “The people of Kerala have always been and are still part of our success story in the UAE. We have a special responsibility to help and support those affected, especially during this holy and blessed days.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was prompt to thank the UAE PM on Saturday through a tweet, which caused some confusion whether India has reversed its 2004 policy and could accept the UAE aid. But the Indian government clarified that for now, the policy remains unchanged.

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“A big thanks to @hhshkmohd for his gracious offer to support people of Kerala during this difficult time. His concern reflects the special ties between governments and people of India and UAE”, PM Modi said in his tweet.

Just yesterday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also thanked the UAE government. In a tweet, he said, “A big thanks to @hhshkmohd for his gracious offer to support people of Kerala during this difficult time. His concern reflects the special ties between governments and people of India and UAE.”

While the government, for now, is not looking at contributions from foreign governments, private efforts towards relief and rehabilitation will continue.

“If a foreign government makes an offer of help, you may kindly express your appreciation for the sincere sentiments and willingness to assist. The initiative shown by the people of Kerala, other states and from Indian citizens from almost all walks of life who have come together in the time of crisis to supplement the efforts of the government machinery maybe highlighted”, the note says.

Emphasising that India will first rely on domestic efforts the note said, “Early indicators point towards requirements that are within the capacity of the people and government of India to meet. In view of the above, you may politely convey to our interlocutors that in the present circumstances, the Government of India has taken the decision to rely solely on domestic efforts to tide over the changes.”

Sources say that the government cannot stop foreign NGOs and aid organisations with Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) clearances from contributing to the relief efforts.

During the 2004 tsunami, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said that India can cope with the situation and will take aid only if needed. The same policy continued during 2013 Uttarakhand floods when Russia had offered assistance in disaster management in Uttarakhand rescue and relief.

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