NEW DELHI, November 5: India will host a first-ever joint disaster management exercise with SAARC nations later this month to learn best practices and skills in urban search and rescue operations.
About 80 disaster managers and personnel from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and India would be attending the four-day seminar, called the South Asian Annual Disaster Management Exercise (SAADMEx), between November 23 and 26.
"The aim of the exercise is to build interoperability among SAARC member countries to undertake joint disaster response operations in cooperation with each other in these nations which are prone to natural disasters. This is the first time such an exercise is being held between these neighbours," National Disaster Response Force Chief O P Singh told PTI.
The NDRF is the nodal agency which will host the delegates and conduct joint field exercises with their SAARC counterparts at its base in Ghaziabad near the national capital apart from table-top sessions.
Officials said the joint effort also follows the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has stressed for an increased cooperation between the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries.
An advanced cooperation meeting has already been held in this regard in September in Delhi.
The NDRF Director General said the joint exercise will be testing the preparedness of the specialised rescue and relief workers of these nations and will gauge their resilience to address specific challenges being faced by them which are host to unique geographical features and climate in their respective countries.
"Apart from strengthening the effective utilisation and quick deployment of search and rescue teams for emergency response, this joint endeavour will set a scenario of effective activation of the national process of regional response," Singh said.
During the maiden exercise, the countries will also discuss and formulate joint plans of command and control and notification of critical indicators for inter-country humanitarian support, he added.
Recently, the Nepal earthquake reinforced the critical need for strengthening regional coordination and cooperation especially while deploying rescue teams and military assets.