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India open to foreign aid for tsunami victims
R Prema & Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | January 06, 2005 21:35 IST
After shunning all offers of foreign aid for tsunami victims, India on Thursday made amends and said it would accept contributions from the multi-national financial agencies like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Even direct contributions to the tsunami-affected areas will now be welcome.
Sources pointed out that the earlier decision to reject foreign aid was reviewed to remove any false impression that India was flush with funds to handle relief operations within the country and in the neighbourhood.
The earlier decision was based on the fact that the scale of the tsunami disaster in India was smaller compared with some other countries and that India had the wherewithal to handle the situation, the sources said.
Dr Manmohan Singh also disclosed that he had received a letter from Bharatiya Janata Party president Lal Krishna Advani suggesting that three worst-hit districts of Tamil Nadu be handed over to the army for relief operations.
Sources said the meeting, however, rejected the suggestion on the PM's pointer that it was better that the army provides support to the local administration in dealing with the situation.
The prime minister also snubbed Shipping Minister T R Baalu, who complained at the meeting that the Jayalalithaa government in Tamil Nadu was not cooperating in the relief operations.
"They are in distress and we have to help them instead of finding faults," the PM was quoted telling Baalu, hinting that he did not like any shadow of the DMK-AIADMK feud in this hour of crisis.
According to the sources, Singh also told the members not to be carried away by tsunami incident, which was a one-time experience as opposed to cyclones.
Cyclones devastate 30 to 40 km inside the shoreline unlike tsunamis which affect only the coastal areas, he said.
India's focus should be on cyclones, the PM stressed.
He also dubbed as exaggerated media reports about non-functioning jetties of the Port Trust, which allegedly affected movement of boats carrying relief material.
Though the prime minister opened the doors for relief from foreign aid agencies and not foreign governments, India would certainly review its stand further "if we feel we can benefit from the help being offered by friendly countries," Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said.
The press conference convened by Saran was mainly to defuse the angry posture of the United States administration.
He stressed that India had never objected to the Americans rushing into the affected countries to provide help.
"There is a disaster. There is requirement for assistance. If the US believed that it could contribute to this task, it was more than welcome," Saran said.
Notwithstanding India earlier refusing financial help from other countries, the US had already contributed $10 lakh to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund through its ambassador David Mulford.
However, the PMO has explained that the fund was accepted as an individual donation and not as a country-to-country aid.
Meanwhile, the US has pledged an additional US $30 lakh through the NGOs working in India.
Meanwhile, the GoM meeting felt the situation was now under control and hence decided that there was no need for daily sittings of the Group of Ministers and the Crisis Management Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary.They will now meet "as and when needed," sources in the Prime Minister's Office said.
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