The terrible disaster and continuing aftershocks have not diminished the indomitable spirit of the Nepalese people. They are calm and dignified in their tragedy. 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.
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 Shri Narendra Modi to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as you seek to “wipe the tears of every Nepali”.
In India, there has been an overwhelming outpouring of sympathy, support and solidarity with Nepal in its moment of tragedy. Our response was swift, spontaneous and substantive. Institutions and people across India, including from deep South and far West, offered their help. The Government of India, the State Governments, NGOs and Corporates, and above all the people of India, opened their hearts to come to Nepal’s assistance. We reacted as if a disaster had struck India. Prime Minister Modi personally led our response for relief and rescue.
Our rescue teams arrived in Nepal within six hours of the earthquake. We have since worked closely with the Government of Nepal in the rescue, relief and early recovery phase. Indian Armed Forces, governmental organizations and volunteers all came together to deliver food, shelter, medical aid, and technical help. 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.
Nepal is now preparing for its biggest ever reconstruction programme. I would like to congratulate 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 finalize their relief packages and pledges.
The PDNA report estimates huge reconstruction needs of US$ 6.7 billion. Mobilization of resources of this magnitude is a challenging task. But Nepal is not alone. It has the good wishes and support of many friends and donors. If we all come together, we can address the funding challenge quite substantially. India stands ready to provide a lead and shoulder its responsibilities towards Nepal, our oldest and closest friend and neighbour.
As challenging as the funding would be the spending. Efficient and transparent utilization of funds, to achieve the PDNA goals, will not be easy. It will require a robust institutional mechanism and the tireless dedication of an empowered team of officials. We welcome the Government of Nepal’s decision to set up such an empowered extraordinary mechanism. We stand ready to depute our professionals to share their expertise and experience with it.
The need of the hour is to conceptualize a holistic recovery programme that balances short-term requirements and long-term needs. Shelter, livelihood, and quake-resistant infrastructure are the main priorities, as are mitigation and preparedness. Nepal also has to rebuild its acclaimed cultural heritage of Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Basantpur. The challenge is formidable, and so must be the response. Donors, therefore, have to play an important role not only in providing monetary resources, but also in supporting Nepal with technical assistance and capacity building.
The relationship between India and Nepal is as old as history itself. We share ties of culture, religion, tradition, language, literature, and mythology. We are nurtured by the same mountains and rivers. Ours is a “Roti-Beti ka Sambandh” – a bond of family and kinship.
And we are both susceptible to natural disasters. The 1934 earthquake had devastated wide swathes of Nepal and Bihar. The recent Sikkim earthquake of 2011 had caused damage across communities in both Nepal and Sikkim. Flash floods in our common rivers wreak havoc in communities in both countries. The recent earthquakes of 25 April and 12 May, though causing much more damage in Nepal, also led to the loss of lives and properties in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal in India. Clearly, Nepal and India are joined in both their joys and sorrows. Therefore we need to closely coordinate our disaster response, and help each other in the wake of such calamities.
We can do so more meaningfully in areas where our expertise and Nepal’s needs match. These include Agriculture, Housing, Roads and Transport, Electricity, Health, Education, Cultural heritage, and Disaster Risk Reduction. Our existing Small Development Projects programme, focused on the grass-roots, should also be strengthened further.
It is in this background and in keeping with our very special relationship that 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. This pledge is over and above our existing bilateral developmental assistance of another one billion US dollars over the next five years, forty percent of which would be Grant. This takes our total assistance to Nepal over the next five years to Two billion US dollars.
The two visits of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to Nepal last year gave a significant impetus to bilateral cooperation in different fields. 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.
In the weeks to follow, we will work closely with Government of Nepal in identifying specific reconstruction projects. We are confident that Nepal will utilize the pledges made by the international community in an efficient, effective, transparent and sustainable manner. Equally, we expect that the pledges will be fully realized at an early date.
Just four days ago, the entire world celebrated the first international Yoga Day, symbolizing the coming together for a common, higher purpose. Today, let us take inspiration from the ancient philosophy of Yoga and join hands to create a more resilient Nepal.
Swaraj is External Affairs Minister of India. Excerpts of Minister Swaraj statement delivered at International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction on 25th June 2015.