A paramedic leaving her 18-month twin children behind to serve the call of duty, officials processing hundreds of documents to prepare more than 140 passports overnight and rescuers not being able to take a bath for 10 days, the National Disaster Response Force’s (NDRF) mission in quake-hit Turkey was full of challenges - emotional, professional and personal.
In a statement, the Embassy of India noted that the entry of three teams of NDRF with 152 members and six canine dogs into the disaster zone was swift, and their return "moving and emotional."
On 6th February 2023, devastating earthquake hit Turkey and Syria, claiming thousands of innocent lives within a few hours. The earthquake which recorded 7.8 on the Richter scale killed over 50,000 and injured many more. Despite not being in the neighboring region, India was one of the first responders to this devastating disaster and launched ‘Operation-Dost’, meaning ‘friend’, to provide humanitarian support for the affected countries.
Within 24 hours of the earthquake, India had sent rescue teams and paramedics and even established field hospitals in Turkey. In addition to NDRF teams, a 99-member self-contained Army medical team was also deployed, which successfully set up and ran a fully equipped 30-bedded Field Hospital in Iskenderun, taking care of thousands of victims. These teams included several women also, working in par with their colleagues even in the sub-zero temperatures and committed to saving as many victims as possible.
As the Indian teams began their return from the affected regions, the warmth and love of the people was indeed overwhelming and a true testimony to the success of ‘Operation-Dost’. While India has always been the first responder in Indian Ocean region, deployment to Turkey and Syria were particularly difficult. Unlike other major powers, India does not have large bases in the Middle-East and Indian foreign policy has always been centred on the ancient principle of ‘VasudhaiwaKutumbakam’, meaning the whole world is a family.
This commitment of India was reflected during the Covid-19 pandemic as well. Even when the developing world was suffering from acute vaccine shortages, many countries were keen on stockpiling more than adequate quantity of these vaccines. On the other hand, despite limited resources, India provided vaccines to over 95 countries through ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative.
As Prime Minister Modi stated in a press conference, “Operation Dost is indeed an example of India’s dedication to humanity and our commitment to stand by nations in distress.”