National interest and international disaster relief efforts

Going beyond altruism, India’s national power will determine its humanitarian assistance abroad.

The earthquake that hit Nepal in April is one of the worst natural disasters to affect the Indian sub-continent in the last decade. The motives and norms behind international humanitarian assistance were questioned at various points during the relief and rescue operations—is international humanitarian assistance really altruistic in nature? What guides the intervention of a state in aid efforts beyond its borders? How should India respond to disasters abroad?

Initially, both China’s President Xi Jinping and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi were quick off the blocks to offer condolences and commit resources from their own countries in relief and rescue efforts. However, the winds changed direction as the Chinese government expressed its reservations over Indian rescue aircraft flying too close to the Nepal-Tibetan border. In another instance, the Nepal government rejected Taiwan’s offer to send a search and rescue team, reportedly on cue from Beijing. Such instances provoked angry reactions online and in print media, decrying the entry of geopolitics and falling moral standards even before the dust had settled.

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