US ticks off Pakistan but it still won’t accept Indian aid

Manmohan Singh on Thursday renewed India’s $5- million offer to Pakistan in flood relief. But Islamabad still appeared to be in two minds over accepting it, saying “ we will do what we believe is right”. “ The Pakistan government is considering the proposal and no decision has been made in this regard,” Pakistani foreign office spokesperson Abdul Basit said on Thursday.

“We appreciate the gesture by India. Their offer has been conveyed to relevant authorities and the matter is under consideration,” he added.

Another official of the Pakistani foreign office added: “ We are yet to take a decision on whether to accept the Indian aid. It is a political decision and only the political leadership should take it.” Pakistan did not come up with a decision despite an admonition on Thursday by the US government, which said politics should have no role in disaster response. The US stated that it “ expected” Islamabad to accept the Indian assistance.

“In terms of responding to a disaster, politics should play no role. You have a country (India) that’s willing to help and... we expect that Pakistan will accept,” US state department spokesperson P. J. Crowley said.

Islamabad, however, brushed aside the US’s suggestion, with Basit saying: “ Pakistan is a sovereign country and we will take a decision according to what we believe is the right thing to do.” On August 13, external affairs minister S. M. Krishna had telephoned his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and offered $ 5 million as aid to Pakistan, which is grappling with the worst- ever floods that has seen over 1,600 people dead and over 20 million affected.

Pakistan’s Dawn News reported on Thursday that Qureshi “ immensely thanked” India for its offer to help.

On Thursday, Singh called up Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to condole the deaths. “ The Prime Minister said India has already made an offer of assistance and was ready to do more to assist in the relief effort,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.

A former Pakistani diplomat said India’s offer should be seen as a “ confidence building measure” for the restoration of bilateral ties between the two nations. “ If Pakistan reciprocates this offer by accepting it, bilateral confidence building will definitely get a boost,” the diplomat said.

But he added that given the “low level of cordiality between the two governments, there is little likelihood that Pakistan will accept the Indian offer”. On another note, reacting to allegations of authorities “ gobbling” up aid money meant for the flood victims, Pakistan announced the setting up of an independent body to oversee the flow of flood- related funds in the country.

The National Oversight Disaster Management Council has been set up in response to internal and external criticism of the widespread corruption among the ranks of the government institutions and questions about the administration’s ability to come up with a transparent mechanism for flood relief efforts.


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