Kathmandu : Rescue teams from India and 33 other countries were on Monday asked by Nepal to leave as it prepared to launch massive operations to rehabilitate millions of uprooted victims of the devastating quake that has killed at least 7,365 people, including 41 Indians.
The decision, which also applies to India’s National Disaster Response Force, which has the largest presence in Nepal, comes in the wake of criticism on Internet over “glorification” of New Delhi’s aid efforts by the Indian media.
Nepal’s Foreign Ministry said the government has asked countries to remove their ‘first response’ teams as the focus has now shifted to relief rather than rescue. Around 4,500 foreign rescue workers descended on the Himalayan nation following its worst disaster in over 80 years.
Teams from Japan, Turkey, Ukraine, UK and the Netherlands have already begun the process of leaving Nepal. Speculation that the Nepal government is angry with India was emphatically denied by both countries. “Nepal is not at all angry with India. Please be positive, there is no negativity,” said Deep Upadhyay, Nepal’s envoy to India.
The envoy also underlined that his country was thankful to India for responding within “6-7” hours and saving precious lives and indicated that it will remain engaged in the rehabilitation process.
India’s National Disaster Response Force had 16 teams of nearly 50 personnel each involved in the Herculean rescue efforts. China, with nearly 400 personnel, was the second largest contingent.
According to Nepal’s Army Chief General, they would like to show to the world that the state has the resilience to get back on its own feet. The government in Kathmandu wants to send a message to its own people and the world that it is competent to handle the relief work, now that the rescue work is complete.
However, Nepal government sources said that there were tensions in the country over ‘undue publicity’ given to Indian rescue teams at the time of the crisis.
In New Delhi, the MEA spokesperson confirmed that India will be withdrawing its rescue teams from Nepal. “Rescue teams from all 34 nations have been asked to withdraw as it is now nine days since the quake,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said. He added that while the rescue operations were over, the next phase of operations to provide relief and rebuild the nation will continue. “Search and rescue phase is over. Indian relief efforts will continue,” he tweeted.
India was among the first to react and move to Nepal’s aid after the devastating 7.9-magnitude quake hit.