Show magnanimity

At a time when Indo-Pak relations are again weighed down by lack of any progress in the bilateral dialogue on contentious issues, India has missed an opportunity to catch the imagination of the People in Pakistan. Millions of Pakistanis have been victims of the unprecedented floods that ravaged many parts of the country.

The US, members of the European Union and other countries as also several international organisations instantly extended help to the beleaguered country in carrying out emergency rescue and relief operations. For almost a week, New Delhi remained silent. Then finally, last Friday, the Manmohan Singh government made an announcement of $5 million aid. As the saying goes, it is better late than never. The belated offer is welcome.

In sharp contrast to this, almost five years ago, the previous UPA government was quick with its response to the devastating earthquake that hit Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir on October 8, 2005. The very day the quake struck, New Delhi had offered help to Pakistan — a gesture that went down very well with the people in that country.

It is in adverse situations like this that neighbours get an opportunity to understand each other better, at people-to-people level. On so many occasions in the past, New Delhi has stated that the right way to go about removing the mistrust in bilateral relations is to forge strong people-to-people relations between the two countries. What better way to do that than by offering help in times of natural calamities.

India can do more than just announcing $5 mn assistance. The worse part of the humanitarian tragedy in the wake of the floods is yet to come with hunger and diseases stalking the survivors. The UN has warned that up to 3.5 million children and lakhs of others are at risk from water-borne diseases. It has called for more aid from all over the world.

The scale of devastation is so huge that even reporting it was difficult. At least one-fifth of the country has been badly devastated and it is described as the worst-ever natural calamity in those areas. It is estimated that Pakistan has suffered more damage from the floods than from all its wars with India and it easily surpasses the destruction caused by the 2004 tsunami, 2005 earthquake in PoK and the recent earthquake in Haiti which received wide international attention.

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