New Delhi, April 26: As India launched 'Operation Maitri' to support the quake-relief efforts in Nepal, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday said that the aim of the government is to be the first to respond to any crisis in the neighbourhood and to do so in a "quick span of time".
He said that the country has always helped other nations in times of crisis and the difference now with the Narendra Modi government at the helm was that such efforts were initiated "very swiftly".
Parrikar said that while over 500 Indians have been evacuated so far from Nepal, another 1,500 would be brought back on Sunday via civil and Indian Air Force aircraft.
"India is a large country in the neighbourhood and we have responded in a quick span of time to a neighbouring country's need, be it Nepal or the Maldives," he said, adding that the government aims to be the first responder. [Earthquake: Modi talks to Nepal PM, assures all help]
Noting that India has always helped other countries, Parrikar said that "the difference this time is that there is a new government here and rescue efforts were initiated very swiftly".
Interacting with journalists at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on the sidelines of a Defence Investiture Ceremony, the minister underlined that the first few hours are the most important in rescue operations.
Asked if strategic reasons had seen India rushing aid to Nepal in such a big way, he said, "It is more than strategic. India shares long cultural and family ties with Nepal. We are obligated to help the country in their hour of need." [More NDRF teams headed for Nepal for quake relief: Rajnath Singh]
The minister said that neighbouring countries have started feeling comfortable with Indian again.
"It is important for the neighbours to get comfortable with us and it is happening again now. When the Maldives faced a water crisis, we moved swiftly. When the runway in Kathmandu got blocked due to an accident, we responded quickly to help them.
"In Yemen too, the government moved quickly and evacuated not just Indians but also around 1,200 foreigners," Parrikar said.