Floods in Kashmir ignite India-Pakistan goodwill diplomacy

modi-sharifAs floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in Jammu and Kashmir, India and Pakistan have put aside their recent diplomatic acrimony and extended a helping hand to each other in this time of unfolding human tragedy.

Late monsoon rains have trigged massive floods on either sides of the Line of Control (LoC) that divide the two halves of Kashmir, inundating hundreds of villages.  According to reports, over 270 people have died in India and Pakistan.

The death toll in India is reported to have crossed 160 with around 5000 homes destroyed. Srinagar, the capital of India’s northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, too, have been inundated by flood water in the worst floods in over 60 years.

In what is being termed as “flood aid diplomacy” by Pakistan’s media, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote a personal letter to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to express condolences and offered humanitarian assistance to Islamabad for relief and rescue operations.

“In this hour of distress, the Prime Minister offered all possible assistance to the people of the region and said that the Government of India was ready to provide humanitarian assistance to those areas if the Pakistan government needs it,” said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Islamabad reciprocated the goodwill gesture by expressing condolence and offering any assistance to India were it to demand so.

“We also feel the pain of people of Indian occupied Kashmir and are ready to help in whatever way possible to mitigate the suffering of people.” This thaw in relations comes after a bitter spat between the two countries in August when New Delhi cancelled foreign secretary level talks with Islamabad over objections that Pakistan’s High Commissioner had met separatist Hurriyat leaders.

Modi, who flew over the flooded areas on September 7, declared the floods a “national level disaster” and promised around USD 200 million in aid and compensation.

The Indian armed forces has also stepped up efforts to rescue people and provide essential services to the homeless.

“This is an unprecedented situation…please do not panic, we will reach you, I promise,” assured Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

The two countries have a history of setting aside diplomatic chills and helping each other in times of distress.

In 2005, New Delhi provided tents, blankets, food items and medicine to Pakistan after earthquake devastated Kashmir. Similarly in 2012, when an avalanche hit a Pakistan’s military base, killing 129 soldiers and 11 civilians, near the Siachen Glacier region, India offered to help with the rescue mission.

Pakistan, on its part, provided 200 tents and over 2,000 blankets, to India for the 2001 Gujarat earthquake.

 

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