Even as the world community urged Islamabad to shed its reservations and accept aid from India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani on Thursday and offered assistance over and above the initial proposal of $5 million.
Speaking to Mr. Gilani against the backdrop of the United Nations urging all countries to bury their political and ideological differences and help Pakistan in coping with floods, Dr. Singh expressed his sense of sorrow and condoled the deaths. He pointed out India had made an offer of assistance and was ready to do more.
Dr. Singh said that in times of natural disasters, all of South Asia should rise to the occasion and extend all possible help to the people of Pakistan.
In Islamabad, asked if Pakistan had taken a decision on the Indian offer of assistance, Foreign Office spokesperson Abdul Basit said: “We appreciate the gesture. Their offer has been conveyed to the relevant authorities and the matter is under consideration.”
‘No role for politics'
At an official briefing in Washington, State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley said: “In terms of responding to a disaster, politics should play no role. You have a country that's willing to help Pakistan, and I think we expect that Pakistan will accept.”
Mr. Crowley was asked whether politics and diplomacy should come in between when thousands of people were suffering.
With the U.N. terming the disaster an “unfolding emergency,” officials in New Delhi said India first tested the waters by making an aid offer of $5 million a week ago when External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna spoke to his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
The officials said India, by virtue of sharing a long border with Pakistan, was in an ideal position to push through vast quantities of aid, provided the latter's government and the Army made up their minds about accepting aid from India.
Mr. Qureshi explained last week why the Indian offer was being treated differently from aid by other countries. “Our relationship is different and given the sensitivities…Anyway, it is not as if the floods are over. It is an unfolding emergency which requires a long-drawn out strategy. This is a continuous effort,” he said.