Earthquakes come suddenly, without any warning and result in deaths, destructions and widespread panic. It was the same with Saturday’s massive earthquake in Nepal and adjoining areas of India, Bangladesh and Tibet (China). In calamities, both natural and man-made, it is quick response that brings maximum succor, saves lives and has a calming effect on panic-stricken people.

The response to the earthquake, in both Nepal and India, was immediate. In the past, Indian Governments used to respond cautiously, slowly and through committees that the Indian Bureaucracy revels in. It was different this time. Our energetic and visionary Prime Minister did what leaders are meant to do in crises. He responded with alacrity and ensured that the officialdom also did the same. It was a non-working day for the government, being Saturday, but instead of inaction, like in the past, everyone saw quick decisions and responses emanating from the PMO. The PM ensured that the ministries and departments moved for a change. Immediate succor and support was thus provided, not only for our own affected people, but also the people of neighbouring Nepal, who had borne the brunt of the disaster. These actions were reminiscent and parallel to the actions that are a byword for the Indian Military, even as the earlier somnolent dispensation had plodded through committees and had worked out slow and laborious responses.

It is highly creditable that after decades India has a leader who leads and who leads from the front. The PM is not a military man, but he does possess some remarkable attributes of soldiers.

While the PM was shaking up the ministries, departments and the bureaucrats, the military, having perceived the requirement, had commenced its drills for rapidly translating the PM’s policy into action.

Even though it was the last day of the important Army Commanders Conference, for which all Army Commanders had been in the capital since the beginning of the week, this was not an inhibiting factor in quick and decisive responses. The well-oiled military machine, especially of the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF), automatically started functioning and within hours C-130 Super Hercules and Globe Master Transport aircraft of the IAF were trundling down runways with trained personnel, including medical and nursing staff and a wide variety of stores immediately needed for the succor of the affected populace. They headed for Kathmandu, even as the after-shocks were continuing. The army also mobilised and placed on short notice two field hospitals and two engineer task forces, for induction in the affected areas of Nepal.

While the transport aircraft of the IAF were streaking across the skies, heading for Kathmandu, the Indian Army’s Everest Expeditionary team at the Everest Base Camp was doing yeomen service in retrieving the dead and the living members of expeditions of many other countries that had been buried by a massive avalanche that had struck a part of the Base Camp. The Indian Army’s Team of about 36 personnel immediately split in to two sub-teams and moved for the rescue of the Everest climbers of other countries. They did so with the meager resources they had, but their brave and rapid response helped in saving many lives and retrieving bodies of the unfortunate who had died.

The Indian Military Adviser in the High Commission of India at Kathmandu was meanwhile getting in touch with the large number of families of our Gorkha troops, who live in and around Kathmandu, Pokhara and other traditional recruiting areas from where our Gorkha soldiers are recruited. Those affected also need succor and support. The Army Chief has already announced that all support will be provided to the families of our Gorkha soldiers in Nepal.

The Nepalese Army too had moved with precision and alacrity and could be seen in the visuals of TV News Channels, working with the affected people in various parts of Kathmandu and other affected areas. Practically the entire officer corps of the Nepalese Army, as well as many soldiers have been trained in the training establishments of the Indian Army. They have not only imbibed the professionalism but also the ethos of the Indian Army. This was evident in the way they responded to this major disaster that had struck their country-men.

While contemplating the rapidly unfolding events, which were being continuously projected on the large number of TV News channels, one was reminded of the slumberous and inordinately delayed responses, when a major terrorist attack sponsored by Pakistan occurred in Mumbai – the financial capital of India, in 2008. The entire government structure at that time was acting in slow motion and even the much vaunted National Security Guard Team was waiting for its head (a police officer) and an aircraft to fetch up, while the then Home Minister was busy selecting his wardrobe for wearing appropriate attire while facing the cameras of the media.

One also recalled, how the then Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), with great foresight and vision, had mobilized a number of naval vessels for providing immediate succor to the very large number of affected people when a major Tsunami had occurred in the Indian Ocean. He had done so in without waiting for formal orders, which came later. Resultantly, the entire world and especially our affected neighbours were pleasantly surprised and impressed by the response and arrival of much needed assistance so speedily. Dividends that had accrued to India were massive.

Citizens of India, need to mull over the change that has been brought about in the corridors of the Government of India, by a visionary and no-nonsense PM at the helm of affairs. We also need to be proud of the Indian Military machine for its superb training, professional competence, quick responses and the high degree of dedication to such disasters. It need not be stressed that our responses have added tremendous goodwill in Nepal towards India. However, of greater importance is that such quick and decisive policies and the speed of their implementation signal the arrival of our nation on the international scene.