India on Wednesday said it would not accept offers from foreign governments to assist in flood relief work in Kerala.
“The government of India deeply appreciates offers from several countries, including from foreign governments, to assist in relief and rehabilitation efforts after the tragic floods,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in response to queries on international assistance. “In line with existing policy, govt [government] is committed to meeting requirements for relief and rehabilitation through domestic efforts.”
The ministry added that contributions to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund and the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund “from NRIs, PIOs and international entities such as foundations” would, however, be welcome.
Several reports over the last two days have claimed that India will turn down an offer by the United Arab Emirates to contribute Rs 700 crore towards the Kerala relief efforts because of a 15-year-old convention on accepting foreign aid. There were also reports claiming Thailand’s offer of assistance and aid was rejected.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Finance Minister Thomas Isaac on Wednesday said that India, by law, could accept financial aid voluntarily given by a foreign government in times of a severe calamity. They cited the National Disaster Management Plan’s chapter 9, which deals with international cooperation. “Right now only talk is happening, let us see what happens,” Vijayan said. “If need be, we will approach the Prime Minister and have a discussion on it.”
On August 18, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced an assistance of Rs 500 crore. On Monday, the Centre declared the floods in Kerala a “calamity of severe nature”. At least 223 people have lost their lives in the rains, floods and landslides in the state since August 8 and more than 360 people since May 29.
Modi had tweeted thanking UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum for his “gracious offer” to help the people of Kerala. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government will say “thank you but no thank you” as internal resources will be utilised for the relief operations, The Times of India quoted an unidentified official as saying. The government will continue to accept private contributions.
Unidentified government officials cited former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision to reject offers of foreign assistance after a tsunami struck the southern eastern coast in 2004. “We are following the policy since 2004, and have been turning down assistance from foreign governments since then. In Kerala also, we are sticking to that policy,” The Indian Express quoted an unidentified official as saying earlier in the day.