Chinese humanitarian relief campaign
S M Hali
China's evacuation project may be its maiden humanitarian relief mission for future efforts to aid mankind in the face of indomitable odds, depicting China's willingness and capability to play a more constructive role in global crises
The age-old concept of human relief campaigns is that it entails coming to the aid of mankind in distress, irrespective of nationality, religion, creed or beliefs. The people in need include the homeless, refugees and the victims of natural disasters (earthquakes, flooding, cyclonic storms, famines), military conflicts and other trials. The primary purpose of humanitarian relief is to save lives and reduce suffering while respecting human dignity. History is replete with examples of nations providing support to human relief campaigns. One instance is the response to the northern Chinese famine of 1876 to 1879, which was brought about by a drought in 1875 that claimed the lives of 10 million people. British missionary Timothy Richard drew international attention to the catastrophe. The international community wholeheartedly responded to Richard’s appeal for financial aid for the victims.
Chinese efforts to help evacuate foreign nationals from Yemen merits praise. Yemen’s conflict has resulted in innocent civilians becoming caught in the crossfire between the rebels and the Arab coalition. The predicament of Pakistanis in this conflict is two pronged: on the one hand they are part of the civilian Yemen community, which is suffering collateral damage while, on the other, Pakistanis may be deliberately targeted in retaliation by the rebelling Houthis because of Pakistan’s support to the Saudi-led military campaign. The Pakistan government dispatched its commercial airliners to Hodeida to bring 500 Pakistanis home to safety. The mercy missions were successfully completed through the air corridor provided by the coalition to the PIA carriers to conduct their rescue operations. Simultaneously, there were desperate pleas of rescue from Pakistanis stranded in the Yemeni city of Aden. The relatives and dependants of the besieged Pakistanis also appealed to the government through social and electronic media for the urgent repatriation of their loved ones.
Aden airport was partly destroyed and under rebel control but the port was functional and a Chinese naval ship was in the vicinity, so Pakistan approached its long-time friend, China, for assistance. It is to China’s credit that it readily undertook the humanitarian relief mission without any delays because time was of the essence and precious lives were at stake. On April 2, a Chinese naval frigate, the Linyi, departed from the Yemeni port of Aden carrying 225 nationals of 10 countries, including Pakistan, who were stranded in Yemen, and arrived in Djibouti safely. The evacuees included 176 Pakistanis, 29 Ethiopians, five Singaporeans, three Italians, three Germans, four Polish, one Irish, two British, one Canadian and one from Yemen. The mercy mission conducted by China was welcomed by these countries as well as humanitarian support organisations the world over. This operation comes on the heels of China’s evacuation of its own nationals from Yemen in which eight foreigners from Romania, India and Egypt were also safely evacuated along with the Chinese citizens.
In the spirit of live and let live, the evacuation is a humanitarian relief campaign conducted by the Chinese government at the request of the affected countries. It is the first operation by the Chinese government to rescue foreign nationals stuck in danger zones, a move based on the ideals of putting the people first through internationalism and humanitarianism. The foreign ministry of China coordinated with the relevant countries and the Chinese navy immediately dispatched a military vessel to the port of Aden for the evacuation. The Chinese embassies in Yemen and Djibouti and the consulate general in Aden also smoothed impediments to complete the necessary formalities and organise the safe evacuation of foreign nationals.
The mission has been declared a complete success. Another 200 Pakistani nationals, who are still stuck in embattled Yemen, will be evacuated by a Chinese ship from Aden to Djibouti later this week. The Chinese rescue was timely because the Pakistani naval ship, Aslat, which reached Mukalla on Friday could not evacuate Pakistanis because of the deteriorating law and order situation following a jailbreak. Al Qaeda reportedly freed 300 inmates and the vessel had to be diverted to the nearby Ash Shihr port. The naval ship evacuated 148 Pakistanis on Saturday. In addition to the Pakistanis, the ship helped evacuate 35 people of other nationalities. The Pakistani foreign office identified 23 of those people as Chinese, Indian and UK citizens. China’s evacuation project may be its maiden humanitarian relief mission for future efforts to aid mankind in the face of indomitable odds, depicting China’s willingness and capability to play a more constructive role in global crises. For Pakistan, China’s gesture proved that a friend in need is a friend indeed.