Great escape: A thrilling story of how top India, Nepal officials were rescued in flood-hit J-K

  • Prashant Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 10, 2014 22:15 IST

Diplomats are used to political thrillers, but even they would not be prepared to jump walls, trek to find mobile networks, walk to the powerful for assistance, and line up and wait for hours for a special flight. But this is precisely what top Indian and Nepali officials had to do earlier this week in Srinagar.

When Nepal’s Charge’ d’ Affaires to India, Krishna Prasad Dhakal, went to Srinagar for a routine meeting of the board of directors of the BP Koirala India-Nepal Foundation, little did he know he will have one of life’s transformative experiences. He led the Nepali delegation, which included, among others, Sriharsha Koirala, son of Nepal’s legendary democratic leader BP Koirala, and artist Ragini Upadhayay. The Indian side was led by ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae, MEA joint secretary Abhay Thakur, Kathmandu embassy spokesperson Abhay K, and others.

Watch:IAF rescues flood victims

“There were 17 of us, and we were staying at the Sarovar Hotel. A group was supposed to depart on the 7th morning. They left at 6 am, but the roads were flooded. No cars or taxis could go and they missed the flight,” Dhakal recounted to HT. There was no phone network, there was no internet, and the only consolation was that since the hotel was relatively elevated, water had not crept in.

They were then told that a kilometer up, at the Shankaracharya Temple, there was sporadic mobile network. But there was a problem. The main gate could not be opened – not only because of the floods on the adjacent road, but because crowds were at the hotel gates seeking shelter – in numbers the hotel could not possibly accommodate. So Dhakal and Rae used the back door, jumped walls, and trekked up through an artificial path.

Dhakal sent a text message to his ministry back in Kathmandu, Rae alerted MEA. Nepal embassy in Delhi got into the act, the Indian defence attaché in Kathmandu alerted Indian Army Headquarters and word went out.

The next day, on 8th, Joint Secretary Thakur – accompanied by Dhakal, Koirala and the hotel manager – walked to chief minister Omar Abdullah’s residence. They then went to Governor NN Vohra’s residence – the path was elevated and the road could be navigated with ease. “They had so many troubles to deal with, but they treated us very well and assured us they will do their best,” acknowledged Dhakal. The same evening, the army sent a colonel to the hotel to assure the team.

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Two days after they were supposed to depart, at 6am on Tuesday morning, an armoured vehicle came to pick the high-powered team. Dhakal recalls the water had substantially reduced by then, and the jeep took them to the helipad at the Governor’s residence. “We waited for about three hours. Other ordinary citizens were also being rescued from here. An Indian Air Force chopper brought us to the Srinagar airport.” And from here, late in the evening, the team took a commercial flight back, returning to Delhi late in the evening.

Dhakal sounds shaken about the entire incident even now, calling it ‘unexpected’. “You had to be there to see this kind of flooding. We are very happy, and deeply appreciate the help extended to us by the Government of India, especially the Air Force.” Natural calamities know no borders and don’t discriminate on nationality, and this team was more fortunate than the millions still stranded. But in Srinagar this week, the delegation’s rescue averted a diplomatic crisis.

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