Special Correspondent

Last time India extended humanitarian assistance was in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami

50-member team to begin assistance in Pulmodai

To be flown across in two sorties

NEW DELHI: India has decided to send its armed forces medical unit to Sri Lanka next week to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians trapped in the north-east.

A 50-member unit is being readied to fly out early next week to commence assistance in Pulmodai, Defence Ministry sources said here on Thursday.

The Ministry of External Affairs had asked the Defence Ministry to prepare a team under the aegis of the Integrated Defence Staff.

The sources said the list of personnel was being processed.

The unit would be ferried in two sorties in the Russian-built IL76 ‘Gajraj’ transport aircraft.

Besides a complement of medical doctors, paramedics and nurses, the unit carries its own equipment including communication set-up.

The sources said the Sri Lankan Navy would provide security to the unit, expected to run its camp in the war-torn area.

The Sri Lankan government would provide logistics support, they said.

The last time Indian armed forces extended humanitarian assistance was in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami that ravaged the coastal areas of the island country.

Besides medical assistance, they assisted authorities in rehabilitation and reconstruction work.

Last month, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee informed Parliament that India was concerned over the safety, security and welfare of civilians caught in the conflict. This led New Delhi to stay actively engaged to prevent further deterioration of humanitarian conditions.

He said India had sent two batches of relief assistance including 80,000 family packs of food and non-food articles, collected and donated by the Tamil Nadu government and medicines.

On February 26, an External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said India and Sri Lanka had agreed to address the urgent medical needs of civilians and internally displaced persons in the conflict-affected zone.