Still undecided on how to respond to India's offer of assistance of $5 million in relief material, for the victims of the massive floods, Pakistan on Saturday was toying with the option of accepting the proposal, provided it was routed through the United Nations system.
That Pakistan was in two minds about the offer was evident on Friday itself, when the Foreign Office statement on Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna's telephone call to his counterpart, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, made no mention of the assistance offered by India. All it said was that Mr. Krishna had extended India's sympathies for Pakistan in its hour of trial.
Though Foreign Office officials earlier this week indicated that Pakistan was not inclined to accept any assistance from India, the Indian offer has not been rejected outright as of now. It was being considered, said an official, adding that Pakistan might not accept it as a bilateral offering but could well take it if routed through the U.N. system.
At a time when Pakistan is having trouble mobilising resources from the international donor community, there is a segment within the Pakistani leadership which feels that outright rejection of the Indian offer would not go down well with donors worldwide. Closer home, a rejection would also make it that much more difficult to pick up the pieces of the dialogue process.
Such being the odds, routing the assistance through the U.N. system — which on Wednesday issued an appeal for $460 million as emergency aid for the flood-affected millions — is being considered as a middle path. More so, as the U.N. itself is looking towards neighbouring countries to source supplies urgently needed for providing immediate relief to the estimated six million in dire need of help.
Since the floods assumed catastrophic proportions about a fortnight ago, the Foreign Office has been interacting with the diplomatic missions present in Islamabad for mobilising resources. Mr. Qureshi briefed heads of missions on August 4 and took them on a visit to some of the flood affected areas on August 12, but the Indian High Commissioner was not invited to either.
Though the Pakistani establishment has been reluctant to rope in India and the media also did not question it, the absence of any offer from New Delhi till date has been a subject of discussion in drawing room conversations.
Gesture of solidarity
New Delhi Special Correspondent reports:
According to a release from the External Affairs Ministry, Mr. Krishna offered the assistance as a gesture of solidarity with the people of Pakistan in their hour of need.
In his telephonic conversation with Mr. Qureshi, Mr. Krishna also conveyed India's deepest sympathies and condolences to the people and the government of Pakistan on the calamity.
The conversation was the first direct engagement between the Ministers after their meeting in Islamabad on July 15, which ended on an acrimonious note. Since then, the only engagement between the two countries has been through condolence messages — Pakistan on a train accident in India and New Delhi on the floods and the air crash in Islamabad.