Why India is refusing foreign aid for flooded Kerala

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Indian government refuses foreign aid for flooded Kerala
WATCH: Indian government refuses foreign aid for flooded Kerala – Aug 24, 2018

India doesn’t want any help with the flood of the century in Kerala, but it “deeply appreciates” the offers from foreign nations.

That’s what officials said this week in refusing all foreign aid, including a reported US$100 million from the United Arab Emirates, to help with disaster relief in the flood-stricken southern state.

The UAE has since said the $100 million number was never finalized.

More than 370 people have died and 1.8 million have been forced from their homes in Kerala since the rains started August 8, but the central government insists it can handle things on its own.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered a “big thanks” in declining finacial help from the UAE’s leader.

“His concern reflects the special ties between governments and people of India and UAE,” Modi wrote on Twitter.

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India has a long-standing policy of refusing foreign aid with disasters, although this will be an expensive one to pay for. Kerala state officials say the flooding has caused at least $3 billion in damage – a far cry from the $85 million the central government promised for relief this week. The state’s international airport is under water, and thousands of kilometres of highway have been destroyed.

“The government is committed to meeting the requirements for relief and rehabilitation through domestic efforts,” Ravesh Kumar, a spokesperson for India’s foreign ministry, said in a statement late Wednesday.

He added that the government “appreciates” the offers it’s received from several countries.

But state officials in Kerala say they’d rather accept the money.

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Thomas Isaac, the state’s finance minister, blasted the central government on Twitter, saying that if it doesn’t want to accept the UAE’s offer, it should compensate Kerala with more of its own money.

Why India doesn’t accept aid from foreign governments

India has refused to accept foreign aid for disasters since 2004, when a tsunami killed more than 10,000 people on its southeast coast. The government founded the Federal Emergency Management Agency in response to the incident, and vowed to clean things up on its own.

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India has remained steadfast in refusing foreign aid ever since — even after disastrous flooding killed more than 5,000 people in the northern state of Uttarakhand in 2013.

India’s National Disaster Management Plan, which was published in 2016 under Modi’s government, states that the government “does not issue any appeal for foreign assistance in the wake of a disaster.”

WATCH BELOW: The desperate struggle to help flood victims in Kerala

Click to play video: 'Desperate struggle to help flood victims in India’s Kerala state'
Desperate struggle to help flood victims in India’s Kerala state

However, the policy doesn’t prohibit India from accepting offers from other nations.

The plan says the central government can accept a voluntary offer of aid, so long as it is a “goodwill gesture in solidarity with the victims.”

The central government said Friday that the $85 million it pledged in aid is just an advance, and that it will provide more as the disaster recovery unfolds.

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The UAE offer isn’t the only one on the table. Qatar has offered $5 million, and Maldives and Thailand have also offered financial support, according to Indian media reports.

“It is only natural for nations to help each other,” said Pinyari Vijayan, Kerala’s top elected official.

Kerala has received approximately $35 million in aid from other Indian states.

Other ways to help

Although the Indian government is not accepting help from foreign nations, it’s still welcoming contributions from non-resident Indians, people of Indian origin and non-government organizations.

Contributions can be made to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund and the Kerala Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, the government said.

Kerala is also free to accept private contributions, and the Indian diaspora has already jumped in to help.

Indo-Canadian communities have raised more than C$47,000 through GoFundMe campaigns in Mission, B.C, Calgary, Alta., Toronto, Ont., and Pierrefonds, Que.

Tens of thousands of U.S. dollars, Euros, British pounds and Swedish kronor have also been pledged to help.

Several Bollywood celebrities have joined the relief effort, including Canadian-born actress Sunny Leone.

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Many Canadians with ties to the area have been anxiously watching the developments.

“No one was prepared for this,” said Prasad Nair, president of the Mississauga Kerala Association, which is located west of Toronto.

“The house that I lived in during my childhood has been fully submerged in water for five days,” Nair, 47, told the Associated Press this week.

—With files from the Associated Press

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