China? India? We’re grateful for their help: Nepal’s ambassador to India

April 28, 2015

By Mayank Bhardwaj and Ratnajyoti Dutta

A 7.9-magnitude earthquake jolted Nepal and parts of northern India on Saturday, killing more than 4,300 people and injuring thousands more. It is the most destructive earthquake that Nepal has suffered since 1934. Several countries have offered relief, most notably China and India. The rival nations, which together surround Nepal, have made an effort to woo the stricken nation even as they eye each other from their own borders.

Reuters spoke to Deep Kumar Upadhyay, Nepal’s new ambassador to India, about the earthquake, relief efforts and the diplomatic strings associated with its China relationship. Here are edited excerpts:

Q: Are China and India competing when they help Nepal?

A: Both India and China are helping. We need help from both neighbours. I am a witness to the fact that India was the first to reach Nepal, within six to seven hours of the earthquake, with relief materials. I must say this is a unique response from India. I also must share the fact that within an hour I got a call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, assuring all help and assistance. The chief ministers of India’s states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal have also been of immense help to us. China, Israel and the United States have also reached out to us quickly. The Arab world is also extending help.

Q: Did you turn down an offer of aid from Taiwan? Why?

A: We have no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and at the same time we have good relations with China, so at this juncture we don’t want any political row or tension. But we welcome any humanitarian assistance from Taiwan, and we’ve requested them to send their assistance through the Red Cross and the United Nations Development Programme. Taiwanese people can also contribute through bank accounts.

Q: What about the former royal family of Nepal. Are they safe?

A: The royal family is safe at the Nirmal Nivas, their palace in Maharajganj, on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

Q: Why was the Nepalese government’s response to the earthquake so slow?

A: We were not prepared for this kind of a calamity. We did not have equipment, primarily large metal cutters which we have now. We’ve reached out to people. Our hospitals are chock-a-block, but doctors have made temporary arrangements to treat patients outside hospital buildings. We also need medicines and peripheral stuff like syringes and saline bottles. We are putting up our medical requirements on our websites so it becomes easier for donors to know our requirements. What has amazed us the most is the sort of empathy and camaraderie our people have shown in helping each other.

Q: What does Nepal need the most? Medicine?

A: Other than medicines, our country also needs non-perishable food, tents, blankets and woolens.

(Editing by Robert MacMillan; Follow Mayank @MayankBhardwaj9, Ratnajyoti @RatnajyotiD and Robert @bobbymacReports. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission))

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