India pledges full support to flood-hit Pak

"We are willing to do all that is in our power to assist Pakistan in facing the consequences of floods," Hardeep Singh Puri, India's envoy to the UN, told the General Assembly on the second day of a special meeting on the Pakistani floods yesterday.

"We extend our wholehearted support to the government of Pakistan in its effort for relief and rehabilitation of their adversely affected population," he said.

During his visit to the UN on Thursday, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had accepted India's offer of aid to the tune of USD 5 million.

Pakistan has been hit by the worst floods in 80 years, which have soaked one fifth of its land, killed more than 1,500 people and impacted an estimated population of 20 million with around 6 million in need of emergency aid, which included 3.5 million children.

The UN has launched a flash appeal for USD 460 million out of which USD 263 million has been received, which is approximately 53 per cent.

Despite a slow start, the contributions picked up speed after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the flooded areas last week and said it was the worst natural disaster he had witnessed, while describing the conditions as "heart wrenching."

The US has contributed the largest amount of aid worth USD 150 million, out of which USD 92 million goes towards the UN flash appeal.

Pakistan, which has lost a high volume of infrastructure and agriculture, is probably going to need aid worth billions of dollar as it moves into the recovery and rehabilitation phase.

India has underlined that it would help Pakistan as it moves into these different phases of rebuilding.

"As in when Pakistan is able to articulate its requirements for medium to long-term recovery, we will, within our abilities and in accordance with the needs of Pakistan, be privileged to be of assistance," Puri said.

The Indian ambassador to the UN also noted that in addition to the USD 5 million, New Delhi had offered relief supplies.

"Given our geographical proximity, provision of relief supplies from India would save precious time and provide much needed relief to the flood victims at the earliest," Puri said. "It is our expectation that relief supplies would start moving soon."

"Our Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) has also said that the Government of India is ready to do more to assist in the relief effort," he said.

Puri noted that Singh also underscored the need for all of South Asia to rise to the occasion and extend every possible help to people of Pakistan affected by the tragedy.
Singh had said that Indians could sympathise with Pakistanis because they shared the same topography, which was prone to natural disasters.

"We share the pain and agony and fully understand the trauma and suffering that our Pakistani brethren are living through," Puri said.

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