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India In The Lead

Despite Erdogan’s hostile policy towards India, PM Modi was among the first world leaders to announce a rescue operation in the earthquake-ravaged Turkey. By setting aside political differences for a humanitarian cause, the PM has yet again demonstrated his statesmanship.

By Chasfeeda Shah

As the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued desperate calls for international help in the aftermath of two powerful earthquakes in Turkey earlier this month, a special team of India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) deployed in Gaziantep, one of the worst affected provinces, received a call to prepare for an emergency rescue operation. India In The Lead

Beneath a six-storied building in the Nudragi area of Gaziantep, which was turned into a pile of debris by the massive earthquakes which hit the country on February 6, there was a possibility of survivors, according to officials who sought the NDRF assistance. 

At the site, the NDRF team put a special dog squad into action. Sniffing around the rubble, Juliet, a female Labrador, started barking. Then, Romeo, a male, was sent to repeat the process. His immediate braking confirmed that there were survivors under the debris.   

India In The Lead

The dogs who assisted the NDRF team in locating the survivors are part of a special squad which has been raised by India since 2016 to assist in disaster rescue operations. Unlike the sniffer dogs of security forces who are trained to hunt for hostile humans and explosives, these dogs are trained to sniff for survivors under rubble.

Soon enough, the rescue operation in Nudragi gathered momentum. After several hours of back-breaking work which involved carefully sifting through a large pile of smashed concrete and metal to avoid killing the survivors, the NDRF team managed to pull out six-year-old Beran alive from the debris.  

“We managed to pull out two small girls alive from the rubble in two operations which lasted 80 hours and 104 hours respectively,” an Army official, who was part of ‘Operation Dost’ launched by India to help Turkey, said during an interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the national capital.

A woman officer, who was also part of the rescue operation, said during the interaction that Beren was trapped under debris for more than three days and she was brought to the Army hospital on a stretcher, “But when she left the hospital, she was walking on her own legs with tears in her eyes. She told us that she was as much grateful to her creator as she was to Indian forces for saving her life.”

Despite Turkey’s notoriety for raking up the issue of Kashmir at global platforms such as the United Nations, India was among the first countries to respond to the devastating earthquakes measuring 7.8 and 7.7 on Richter Scale which have left a trail of death and destruction, killing more than 43000 people in the country while thousands more are injured and hundreds of thousands are homeless.   

PM Modi was among the first world leaders to express condolences with the affected people of Turkey. In a tweet, the PM said: “Anguished by the loss of lives and damage of property due to the earthquake in Turkey. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon. India stands in solidarity with the people of Turkey and is ready to offer all possible assistance to cope with this tragedy.”

Soon after the PM’s announcement, diplomats in the two countries rang each other and India started working out modalities for launching ‘Operation Dost’, a relief and rescue operation in Turkey. Despite Erdogan’s anti-India stance on various forums, the announcement of the rescue operation demonstrates the statesmanship of the PM and that the country was confident to set aside narrow political differences when it comes to the larger cause of humanity.   

“Being the first responder to the massive natural calamity, New Delhi took the lead in coming to the rescue of Turkish people at a time when the war in Ukraine and the geopolitical muscle-flexing by China has consumed the attention span of the west”

“Wherever our forces go with the tricolour (in disaster situations), there is a glimmer of hope that India has arrived. That is why there is a larger goodwill towards India across the world,” PM Modi said while interacting with a team of NDRF, Army and other forces who participated in the rescue operation. 

Being the first responder to the massive natural calamity, New Delhi has demonstrated that it was taking a lead role in coming to the rescue of embattled people and nations at a time when the war in Ukraine and the geopolitical muscle-flexing by China has consumed the attention span of the United States and other western powers.  

Speaking with the media at a rescue site in Gaziantep, Tercuman, a Turkish interpreter, said that the earthquakes damaged all the hospitals where the survivors in the need of immediate medical intervention could have been taken for treatment.

“There were no medicines either. But thanks to India and its forces, we were able to treat the victims in the Army’s field hospitals. We were feeling alone but when they came here, we are feeling secure again. God bless India,” she said. 

Acknowledging New Delhi’s swift help towards the relief operations, Turkey’s Ambassador to India Firat Sunel said that the “valuable help” was truly appreciable, “Like the Government of India, the big-hearted Indian people have also joined hands to help those in need in the earthquake region. We truly appreciate all of you for your valuable help,” he said in a tweet, sharing a video which showed hundreds of tonnes of relief material sent by India to Turkey.

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