Page last updated at 17:57 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 18:57 UK

India sends doctors to Burma

By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Delhi

Rice loaded from shop in Chennai to be sent to Burma - photo 13 May
India is one of the few countries allowed to send aid to Burma

A team of 50 Indian medical personnel is being sent to Burma to help the victims of Cyclone Nargis, following a request by the country's military regime.

An Indian Air Force transport aircraft is being sent to the capital Rangoon on Saturday carrying a team of doctors and medical supplies.

Despite mounting international pressure, the Burmese government has mostly refused access to foreign aid workers.

But India has close ties to the Burmese junta - one reason why its offer may have been accepted.

"The request was made by the Myanmar government to our Ministry of External Affairs which in turn passed it on to the Ministry of Defence," says Wing Commander Manish Gandhi of the Indian Air Force.

Even as he spoke, a giant IL-76 military transport aircraft was being prepared for the mission at Delhi's Palam Air Force base.

'Vastly experienced'

Several olive green military trucks were backed up to the rear of the aircraft and a team of soldiers was unloading crates of medicines, supplies and food.

"They're carrying approximately six tonnes of medicines today," says Wing Commander Gandhi.

"Once they reach Rangoon, they will be divided into two teams which will set up two mini-hospitals, independent of each other."

The team is expected to be deployed in the flood-hit Irrawaddy delta and has been drawn from the Indian armed forces.

Officials say they are vastly experienced in disaster management, having worked in similar situations in India.

India is one of the few countries which have been allowed to send aid to Burma.

Already, two Indian navy ships and five aircraft have delivered several shipments of food, clothes, medicines and tents. But until now they were only allowed to hand over the aid to the Burmese military authorities.

India has forged a close economic and military relationship with Burma over the years and is one of the few countries which has opposed calls for sanctions against the country.

This is possibly the main reason why the Burmese government has been less reluctant to accept its help.


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