History

Established in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has continued to meet humanitarian needs and surmount challenges in the constantly evolving humanitarian landscape over the past 150 years. The ICRC is at the origin of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and together with its partners, endeavour to alleviate human suffering, protect life and health, and uphold human dignity especially during armed conflicts and other emergencies. The Movement is present in every country and supported by millions of volunteers.

The organisation is guided by the Movement’s Fundamental Principles which enables it to deliver humanitarian assistance in a neutral and impartial manner across many areas including the provision of health services, during emergency response, in the provision of relief aid, offering support through economic security projects and enhancing social inclusion through physical rehabilitation services.

These very guiding principles brought the first ICRC mission to the Indian subcontinent leading to a long tradition of humanitarian action in Asia. A cable to Cairo, in January 1917 directed the ICRC delegates there to inspect camps of prisoners of war (POWs) and civilian internees in India and Burma. Boarding a ship the delegates sailed through the Suez Canal to reach the western coast of India. Their arrival in Bombay, on 12 February 1917 marked the beginning of the ICRC’s journey on Indian soil. The first camp they visited was in Sumerpur, in present-day Rajasthan, and what was then Rajputana followed by visits to Turkish POWs in a camp at Bellary, and in a depot camp in Calcutta for POWs captured in Mesopotamia, as a transit camp en route to their place of detention in Myanmar.

Several decades later, the ICRC was also active in support of persons affected by armed violence in India at the time of partition (1947-48), and again in 1965 and 1971. The organisation formally opened an office in New Delhi in 1982—a Regional Delegation—which maintains portfolio responsibility for India, Bhutan and the Maldives, whilst providing expertise in of support of other ICRC delegations in the region.