A humanitarian crisis

Pakistan floods spell disaster; no room for politics of prestige and perpetual conflict
"It is, in fact, existential crisis for Pakistan, and a test fo the international community that how fast it rises to the occasion and helps the victims."
"It is, in fact, existential crisis for Pakistan, and a test fo the international community that how fast it rises to the occasion and helps the victims."Screengrab

Pakistan is under flood waters. It is a sad story, not just for Pakistan but also the entire humanity, as the people are drowning, homes and villages vanishing, and according to the UN, more than 60 million population of the country is affected by this natural calamity.

The people in Pakistan need sympathy, support, and help from all over the world as they are in the grip of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. It is, in fact, existential crisis for Pakistan, and a test fo the international community that how fast it rises to the occasion and helps the victims.

The natural calamity of this magnitude, which many could not have imagined, has fallen on Pakistan and it was natural for the people on both sides of the border to watch that how India-Pakistan relations play out in these times.

India is immediate neighbour of Pakistan, the idea of the neighbourhood for these two countries transcends beyond the contiguity of their geographies; they have shared culture, traditions and history. This fact cannot be ignored by the real readers of history.

There is a talk of an opening, which was spelled out by Pakistan’s Finance Minister Miftah Ismail that his country could benefit and mitigate suffering of the people in distress, as the vegetable prices have skyrocketed.

The floods have deluged fields, destroying the crops and there is no hope of the farmers retrieving their land and putting the farming on track anytime soon. Some of the reports from Pakistan suggest that farmers fear that it may take up to 50 years before they are back to the pre-flood period.

Against the backdrop of these uncertainties, what Finance Minister has suggested makes sense for the benefit of the trade, resetting the clock in Indo-Pakistan relations and at the same time helping the people marooned by waters and absence of economic prospects.

Pakistan’s stand, resolve Kashmir first before it resumes trade with India to ease the sufferings of its own people, is preposterous, to say the least. Pakistan’s idea of fury of floods that has swamped the country and listing conditions for the help from the neighbouring country, is baffling.

That India could help Pakistan in these times when the latter is struggling against catastrophic floods, and a severe humanitarian crisis of un-assessed proportions, is based on the kind message of sympathy tweeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The message is profound and it needs to be understood in the spirit it has been made, that he is “saddened” by the catastrophic floods and wish that normalcy is restored. After this tweet, there was a well-founded speculation that India would announce aid for Pakistan, like several other countries have done to help the marooned nation.

This is a natural expectation as a sequel to India’s messaging, and its history of having reached out with help to neighbouring countries, even distant ones, whenever they were faced with such natural disasters. India, it is now acknowledged by the world, helped many countries to fight the pandemic of Covid-19 with free of cost export of vaccines. Millions of lives were saved.

Two well known facts, born out of history and the contemporary realities are - there in need of reiteration - one, India is a big brother in the whole of South Asian region and having set its eyes on becoming the “Vishwa Guru” – moral world leader, because of its cultural heritage and responsibilities toward the people across continents, rooted in belief of “Vasudev Kutambh”- the whole world is one family.

Second, Pakistan is a neighbour, the closeness of geography alone does not define the idea of the neighbourhood, there is much more common between the two countries - their common heritage, culture, cuisine and traditions. Partition did draw a bloody line, but, for many on both sides of the border, these have been reduced to lines on map only.

I personally believe that PM’s message triggered hope across the border that Delhi would announce some help for the flood victims.

These are the ordinary people of Pakistan who are facing a very, very difficult situation, which may be attributed to the climate change, human greed of the powerful to encroach the river beds raise constructions there and taking Monsoon as just one of the seasons, which required no prior arrangement to prevent the flooding and the disasters that come with it.

Pakistan, as such, is not alone in misbehaving with the policy and plans and the human greed of the influential sections of society. This fact can be elaborated with regard to other countries in the region, too.

A fundamental question may be asked, why should India help Pakistan when it exports terrorism to India. This argument is an extension of thinking among many people in this country that help to Pakistan would be used or misused against India in the long run.

That is Pakistan sponsored terrorism would not subside because of this goodwill gesture. There is need to understand and feel the pain, that is what PM Modi has done. Terrorism is a menace with which the people of Pakistan too are afflicted. The people in Swat have risen against the terrorists who have been killing their kin.

The massacre of 140 school children in Peshawar’s Army Public School in December 2014, still relives horror for the families of the victims. It is, however, unfortunate that Pakistan is deliberately ignoring the danger the terror groups that it created, pose to its polity. It serves the self-interests of few, but the majority is scared and terrorised.

Before Pakistan expects help from others, it needs to, rather it must come out against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. There is no good or bad terrorism. It cannot be bad in Pakistan and good for India.

The red lines should be drawn for terrorism across geographies. When India asks Pakistan to shut all sources of terrorism, it, in fact, is talking of overall good of the people all over. It is in the interest of Pakistan to stem the rot once and for all.

Pakistan’s foreign office has put paid to the wise words of its own government. Finance Minister Miftah Ismail had stated that the government could “consider importing vegetables and other edible items from India to facilitate people after recent floods destroyed crops across the country.”

Foreign office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad said that there was no such proposal under the consideration of the government. Apart from validating Pakistan’s own contradictions where one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing, it is a disservice to their own people.

They are playing politics of prestige. Let the people suffer, but taking vegetables and other edible items from India is not on the agenda, just because, as they believe , Kashmir issue remains unresolved.

It begets a question, whether the continuous harping on Kashmir helped Pakistan in averting the disaster that floods have caused. The rhetoric on Kashmir did not draw any red line for the natural disasters. This is the unneighbourly attitude of Pakistan that gives traction to the arguments of those questioning help to Pakistan.

And, for Pakistan, it is difficult to justify the loan that it is seeking from other countries to mitigate the situation, but has reservations in importing essential goods from India for its own people.

It may not erase all the fissure points, but this can help in generating and cementing the hope that the two countries are united in their quest to help the humanity in distress.

The pursuance of politics of perpetual conflict and prestige even in the times of the natural disasters of unprecedented proportions is not in the interest of the suffering population.

India has sent a message, and it is for Pakistan to grasp it and respond accordingly, not with mere thanks, but in a spirit of good neighbourly relations. India can do handholding only when the other side is willing to accept it.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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