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Updated: August 5, 2010 15:46 IST

U.S. bid to win Pakistani minds and hearts

Anita Joshua
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Flood survivors jostle for food at a camp in Charsadda, near Peshawar, in northwest of Pakistan, on Wednesday, Aug 4, 2010. Photo: AP
Flood survivors jostle for food at a camp in Charsadda, near Peshawar, in northwest of Pakistan, on Wednesday, Aug 4, 2010. Photo: AP

Eager to show itself as an “all-weather friend” of Pakistan — a position currently held by China — and not just an ally in the ‘global war on terror’ (GWOT), the United States is making its presence felt in the international support extended to the strife-ravaged country as it battles the worst flood in this region in 80 years.

And, since the U.S. has taken a drubbing in public perception — where the dominant view is that Americans will walk out on Pakistan after it is done with the GWOT and that Pakistan is paying a heavy price for an American agenda — much attention is being paid to public diplomacy and every installment of assistance to the flood-affected areas is announced to the media. Fact sheets are being issued on a daily basis to the media on the ‘U.S. Response to Pakistan’s Flooding Disaster’.

While the Foreign Office has been receiving condolence messages from counterparts in other countries, the U.S. empathy for Pakistan in its hour of crisis has been articulated from the White House and similar messages have come from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry. On Wednesday evening, Ms. Clinton briefed the media in Washington to flag the American assistance to Pakistan; highlighting that whatever has been done till date was just the beginning.

Thus, the American relief effort seeks to show the U.S. presence among the devastated multitudes. The bags of food clearly bear the Star-Spangled Banner and as of Wednesday night, 4,60,000 halal meals from U.S. stocks in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region had been handed over to the authorities in Pakistan.

Details shared with media

Minute details of the efforts are being provided to the media such as the U.S. Transportation Command Commander Duncan McNabb having brought on his flight 12,200 halal meals for emergency ration distribution during a scheduled visit to Pakistan earlier this week. That U.S. helicopters have rescued more than 730 people and transported more than 4,990 kilograms of aid to victims trapped in remote areas.

Logistics support has been provided by the U.S. in the form of helicopters, 12 prefabricated bridges to restore transportation links in areas where roads/bridges have been washed away, and water purification units. Further, Ms. Clinton used her widely televised briefing to get Americans to do their bit to reach out to Pakistanis by texting the word ‘SWAT’ to a designated number which will result in a donation of $10 to the UNHCR Pakistan Flood Relief Effort.

Sources in the Pakistan Government, however, maintain that the assistance coming in is nothing compared to that after the 2005 earthquake and for the Internally Displaced Persons last year following the operations against militants. As of Tuesday, international donors had pledged $62 million: other donors being the U.K., Australia, China, the European Union, South Korea and Japan.

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