April 29, 2015
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reflexes in rushing aid to quake-struck Nepal have been perfect. He knows about earthquakes from the time of the Bhuj tragedy, on January 26, 2001. He was not chief minister of Gujarat then, but he was on his way to assuming that office when Bhuj shook not just Gujarat but all of India out of seismological complacency.
And so our prime minister knows what an earthquake is and does. Also, how help comes pouring in from all over the country and beyond as well. Especially from neighbours.
We like to think of Sri Lanka as our “small neighbour”. But when Bhuj jolted us out of our smugness on Republic Day in 2001, then President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar did what any neighbour, small or big, would have done — they lost no time in offering and indeed, giving us help. For a nation that was battling, 24X7, a most brutal form of terrorism, had no foreign exchange reserves worth the name and was, in fact, in need of every kind of help from other nations, Sri Lanka’s response was noteworthy. Colombo rustled up a money contribution and a sizeable quantity of blankets and clothing for distribution to the quake-affected. “No used clothes”, Kumaratunga made clear. “Only factory-fresh items”.