Military medical forces are the most potent form of delivering healthcare both to the armed forces and to civilians in times of natural disasters, the minister said while opening the 16th Asia-Pacific Military Medicine Conference here on Monday.
Pointing out that the threat of nuclear warfare and the spread of avian flu also needed to be countered, Mukherjee said: As members of the military medical service, it is for you to work for both the armed forces and the civilian authority and to lay down guidelines for public health authorities to follow.
You are the healers and path breakers in laying down standards for others to follow, he said.
Some 250 delegates from 19 Asian and Pacific countries, including from the US, Australia, Israel, Japan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and an equal number from India are attending the five-day conference, co-hosted by the Directorate General of Armed Forces Medical Services and the Honolulu-based US Pacific Command.
The conference provides a forum for members to exchange information and increase knowledge and the understanding of medical professionals of different countries on relevant military medical issues and topics.
US Ambassador David Mulford, pointing to the growing India-US interaction, said: "Through these interactions, we increase our mutual understanding and foster an environment that encourages cooperation.
"Military medicine is an equally important component of these interactions as we pursue the goals of safety, security and the relief of suffering."
Referring to the potential threat of an avian flu pandemic, the ambassador called for "collective action" to avert this. "We depend in the first instance on you to help your respective governments and the international community to protect them."
Addressing the gathering, Surgeon Vice Admiral V.K. Singh spoke of the need for the spread of knowledge sans geographical boundaries, noting that military medical specialists had a "duty to mankind as a whole".
"We have always been on the alert in coming to the aid of civil power during natural disasters and we have to constantly evolve new doctrines to tackle new threats, Singh maintained.