Disaster Diplomacy – Turning Adversity Into Opportunity

“Behind every adversity  – is an opportunity”

– Nepolean Hill.

Disaster diplomacy refers to the use of cooperative and diplomatic efforts between nations in the aftermath of natural calamities. The idea behind disaster diplomacy is that these disasters often create a sense of urgency and a common purpose among those affected. It also provides an opportunity for nations to come together and work towards a common goal. Disaster diplomacy can take many forms, such as joint rescue and relief efforts and the sharing of resources and expertise. It facilitates the creation of long-term partnerships focused on disaster prevention and preparedness. One of the key benefits of disaster diplomacy is that it can help build trust and cooperation between nations. Nations can establish a foundation of collaboration that might extend beyond the immediate crisis and lead to cooperation in other areas.


India being a global power ascertains its responsibility towards the global good. Apart from being a global power, India is a civilizational hub that promulgates the philosophy of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” meaning the world is one family. Following its civilizational tenets, India has embraced disaster diplomacy as a pivotal part of its foreign policy. Disaster diplomacy in the Indian context refers to the country’s efforts to use humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as tools for advancing its foreign policy objectives. In recent years, India has become increasingly active in providing aid to countries that have been affected by natural disasters. The Primary objective of India’s disaster diplomacy is to enhance its image as a responsible and reliable global power. By providing assistance to countries in distress, India seeks to demonstrate its commitment to international cooperation and harmony. It also showcases India’s capacity to project power beyond its borders.

Disaster management drill.

Another objective of India’s disaster diplomacy is to deepen its regional and global partnerships. By providing aid to neighbouring countries and other partners, India seeks to build stronger ties and promote regional stability. India’s disaster diplomacy has also been used to further its strategic interests. For instance, India has provided aid to countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, and the Maldives, which are important for India’s security and strategic interests. India’s assistance to these countries has helped to strengthen its influence in the region and to counterbalance the influence of other powers, like China. India employs a holistic approach to providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief that caters to its strategic foreign policy objectives.

Also Read, The Ukraine Conflict: Prospects of a Nuclear War.


NDRF stands for “National Disaster Response Force.” It is a specialised force created for the purpose of responding to natural and man-made disasters. The NDRF was formed on January 19, 2006, under the Disaster Management Act of 2005. It is managed by the Ministry of Home Affairs and has its headquarters in New Delhi. The motto of the NDRF is “आपदा सेवा सदैव,” which means disaster service always. NDRF works under the ambit of the National Disaster Management Authority, which is chaired by the Prime Minister. The force is headed by an IPS officer based on deputation, who is appointed as the Director-General. The NDRF is composed of personnel from various paramilitary forces in India. It is trained in disaster management and rescue operations. The force has a total of 12 functional battalions, each of which comprises 1149 personnel. The NDRF is the cornerstone of India’s disaster diplomacy.

The primary role of the NDRF during disasters is to undertake search and rescue operations, evacuate people from affected areas, provide medical assistance, and assist in the distribution of relief materials.


Some of the specific roles of the NDRF are:

  • Preparation: NDRF teams are trained and equipped to handle any kind of disaster. They carry out regular training sessions and mock drills to stay prepared for any emergency situation.
  • Response: NDRF teams are the first responders during any disaster. They immediately rush to the affected areas and begin search and rescue operations.
  • Rescue: NDRF teams are trained to handle complex rescue operations like building collapses, flood rescues, and landslide rescues.
  • Relief: NDRF teams provide essential relief materials like food, water, and medical supplies to the affected people.
  • Rehabilitation: NDRF teams also play an important role in the rehabilitation of people affected by disasters. They help restore normalcy in the affected areas.
national disaster force
Map showing NDRF battalion locations and their respective areas of responsibility.

In a nutshell, the NDRF plays a crucial role in providing immediate response and relief during disasters and helps in mitigating the impact of disasters on the affected communities. In the meantime, it also provides technical support to local authorities for disaster management and conducts training and awareness programmes for disaster preparedness.


The NDRF primarily operates within the borders of India, although there have been some instances where the force has provided assistance outside of the country. Here are a few notable examples:

  • Nepal Earthquake (2015): Following the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal in April 2015, the Indian government sent a team of NDRF personnel to assist with the rescue and relief efforts. The NDRF team worked alongside local authorities and other international responders to help search for survivors and provide medical aid. The force provided search and rescue, and medical assistance, and helped in the evacuation of stranded Indians.


  • Indonesia Earthquake (2018): In August 2018, a powerful earthquake struck the island of Lombok in Indonesia, killing hundreds of people and leaving thousands homeless. The Indian government sent a team of NDRF personnel to assist with the rescue and relief efforts, including the deployment of medical teams and the distribution of food and water. The force carried out search and rescue operations, medical support, and other relief efforts.


  • Mozambique Cyclone (2019): In March 2019, Cyclone Idai struck Mozambique, causing widespread flooding and devastation. The NDRF sent a team to assist with relief efforts, providing medical support and logistical assistance. The Indian government sent a naval ship with relief materials, and the Indian Air Force also airlifted relief material and personnel to the affected areas.

Flooded homes seen after Cyclone Idai in Buzi district outside Beira, Mozambique.

CYCLONE disaster
  • Turkiye Earthquake (2023): On February 6, 2023, Turkiye and Syria were hit by a Mw 7.8 earthquake. The earthquake had an epicentre 37 km (23 mi) west-northwest of Gaziantep. It was followed by a magnitude 7.7 earthquake, resulting in over 50,000 casualties. The Indian government immediately sent around Rs 7 crore worth of relief material to both Syria and Turkey. The Indian Army launched Operation Dost to assist affected countries. It prepared its rescue teams with relief materials within 12 hours after disaster struck. NDRF sent a C-17 aircraft carrying relief supplies, a mobile hospital, and additional specialised search and rescue teams.


Irrespective of distance and other logistics issues, India was one of the earliest responders to Turkey’s call for help. Not only the government but even the citizens did their bit to assist the people of Turkey in such challenging times. India walked its talk and helped the people of Turkey as members of one family. Despite the fact that Turkey always sided with Pakistan in its rant against Kashmir, India followed the path of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.” Even recently, despite all the assistance India provided, Turkey yet again raked up the so-called Kashmir issue in the UNHRC. Many analysts considered it as Turkey backstabbing India, but not to mention India didn’t help Turkey for any political quid pro quo; India assisted Turkey like any other nation in distress. And rest assured, India will keep on playing its part for the global good.

Turkey yet again rakes up the Kashmir issue days after India launched Operation Dost to assist Turkey’s earthquake-affected areas.


  • Increased cooperation: Natural disasters can affect multiple countries or regions, and the response often requires coordinated efforts. Disaster diplomacy can encourage cooperation between countries and communities, leading to improved communication and collaboration on issues beyond the disaster itself. By working together in response to a disaster, countries or groups can improve their capacity for cooperation and coordination, which can be useful in addressing other issues and crises in the future.
  • Enhance disaster resilience: Disaster diplomacy can also help countries build resilience to future disasters. Countries can better prepare for and respond to future disasters by sharing knowledge, resources, and best practises, reducing their impact on communities, and potentially saving lives. Natural calamities are not a day-to-day affair. So by assisting nations facing them, a country can test its disaster management policies and make necessary amendments if required.
Turkish people expressed gratitude for the NDRF’s disaster relief operations.
  • Generating goodwill: When a country provides aid and support to other nations during a disaster, it generates goodwill and positive public sentiment, which help improve relations between the two nations in the long term. Disaster diplomacy can be a powerful tool for bolstering soft power. By providing assistance and support during times of crisis, countries can enhance their soft power and demonstrate their commitment to global cooperation and solidarity. It overall improves the nation’s standing on global platforms and reflects a positive image to a global audience.

Anmol Kaushik

Hi, I'm Anmol Kaushik, I'm currently pursuing Law (4th year) at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (GGSIPU). I'm a defence enthusiast and a keen geopolitical observer.

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