Posts Tagged ‘ $5 million ’

Pakistan’s Strange Response Towards Indian Aid offer

by Omer Farooq Khan for The Times of India

The worst floods in Pakistan’s history provided a good opportunity for both the South Asian nations to come closer. Accepting Indian aid offers half-heartedly and that too after US insistence, Pakistan has given an impression that it is convinced that its policy on India cannot change.

Pakistan’s initial response to the Indian offer of five million dollars was a positive one but then it was unsure how to respond. It took several days for Pakistan to finally accept the offer, saying that the aid had to come through the UN. Now, a total of $25 million Indian assistance for flood relief efforts in Pakistan has to be spent by the UN.

Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had said that the delay was due to the sensitivities involved in the relationship with India. Even, a section of policymakers, conspiracy theorists in media and some India-centric elements within the Pakistani establishment blamed India for opening floodgates of its dam to inundate Pakistan’s cities and towns. While building public opinion, they did not care that their contention was technically wrong. The fact is that the rivers that caused destruction in Pakistan do not originate in India.

Some defence analysts argue that Pakistan’s strange response towards India’s aid offer was meant not to get obliged. “Pakistan reacted politically towards Indian humanitarian gesture. The destruction is so colossal that petty politics must be avoided. Pakistan asks for help and when it is offered by a neighbour, its ego comes its way. The main hurdle was that Pakistan did not want to be obliged,” argues defence analyst General Talat Masood.

Kamran Shafi, Dawn’s columnist says that Indian-centric approach within the security establishment and intelligence agencies was the main predicament that the government accepted Indian offer half heartedly. “Values and wisdom demand that politics must be kept aside at time of tragedy. Pakistan needed to have warmly welcomed neighbour’s goodwill gesture.”

India and Pakistan have made major efforts in recent months to build confidence in their relations, which were badly strained by the Mumbai 2008 terror attacks that India blamed on militants from Pakistan. If Indian civil society, volunteers and NGO’s were allowed to do relief work in the flood affected areas, this could have been an ideal confidence building measure in the relations of the two countries.

Certainly, it would have served the spirit of Thimphu where Pakistani PM Yusuf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh tasked their top diplomats to create CBMs. An opportunity is still not lost if governments, media and civil societies in both the countries come forward and create enough space to use this calamity into an opportunity.

-Editor’s Note for Pakistanis for Peace- The writer is spot on with his analysis of Pakistan’s aid offer from India. During times of a humanitarian crisis of biblical proportions, its political response was petty and irresponsible to its citizens. Furthermore, half heartedly accepting several days after the response does little to build on the goodwill. Either accept it right away with gratitude (our advice) or reject it outright. It did neither and so was ineffective in either cause. The politicians of Pakistan continue to show their incompetence by ineffectively managing the affairs of the country both domestically and internationally.

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Aid Flooded Pak by Withdrawing Army

By Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar for The Times of India

Pakistan is suffering its greatest human tragedy since Partition. The floodwaters of the Indus are an incredible 20 miles wide, sweeping away entire towns, villages and farms. Over 20 million people have been displaced, far more than the nine million displaced by Partition in 1947. The immediate death count of 1,500 will soon increase hugely through disease and deprivation. Rehabilitation could cost $100 billion.

Some Indians might be perverse enough to rejoice that an enemy has been hit by a natural disaster — an act of God, as it were — and will be crippled economically for years. But most Indians will surely want to help their neighbours. In these traumatic times, we need to think of Pakistanis as humans in distress, not foes.

Even those who cannot think beyond realpolitik should see that the floods are potentially a strategic disaster for India too. Flood damage will create a fertile breeding ground for Islamist militancy. Islamist NGOs with links to terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are at the very forefront of flood relief efforts and hence are gaining popularity. Meanwhile, the civil administration is seen as corrupt and ineffective. President Asif Zardari has further ruined his low reputation by going on foreign junkets.

The Pakistani army has in the last year battled some, though by no means all, militant groups in Swat and FATA (federally administered tribal areas). But much of the infrastructure built to reach the remote tribal areas has been destroyed by the floods. Besides, the Pakistani army is redirecting its efforts in the region, from combating militants to combating flood damage. The militants are re-occupying the resultant political vacuum.

The ISI recently came out with a study suggesting that Islamist militants had become a greater threat to the country than India. Flood damage can only deepen that perception. True, the army wants to back the Afghan Taliban even while battling the Pakistani Taliban, and this results in muddled thinking and sabotage of peace initiatives. The resolution of these contradictions is not in sight.

One day, the Pakistani army and the ISI will have no choice but to confront the reality that Islamist militants are Frankensteins that threaten their own creator. The ISI’s assessment should bring that day somewhat closer.
In the light of both human and strategic considerations, how can India help Pakistan? Individual contributions from Indian citizens must be encouraged, and red tape thwarting contributions in cash and kind must be cut. But the Indian government should not offer more than a modest amount of food and financial aid. Pakistan requires billions of dollars for relief and rehabilitation, so anything India offers will be a drop in the ocean.

Besides, recipients are rarely grateful for alms: they resent being supplicants, and suspect the motives of the donors. The US saved India from mass starvation after the twin droughts of 1965 and 1966 by giving record food aid. But this won the US very few friends and stoked resentment from many who felt India’s independence was being compromised. The US will once again be the chief donor to Pakistan, but will gain virtually no popularity or gratitude.

If food and financial aid will not help much, how can India best help Pakistan? The best way will be for the Indian Army to unilaterally withdraw from the border in Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. This will pose no military risk whatsoever: flood-stricken Pakistan cannot possibly embark on military adventures against India. But the withdrawal of Indian troops will mean that the Pakistan army loses all excuses to avoid diverting manpower and financial resources from the border to flood relief and rehabilitation. This will cost India nothing, yet will release very large resources within Pakistan. Its impact on the Pakistani psyche will be significant. Even analysts who distrust Pakistan agree widely that India has no alternative to diplomatic engagement: cutting off ties will not win any minds and hearts there. Unilateral withdrawal will itself be a form of engagement, and will encourage other forms.

The wrong strategy will be to try to negotiate a mutual withdrawal of troops. Withdrawal must be unilateral and immediate. Defence hawks will express dismay that India is so soft on an enemy that encourages terrorism. But unilateral withdrawal will be a flood relief measure, not a military surrender. In the bargain, it will oblige Pakistan to withdraw its own troops and redeploy them for flood relief: its public opinion will be outraged otherwise.

Dr Manmohan Singh, you say we must be proactive in the peace process with Pakistan. The tragic floods there have given you an opportunity to be proactive in a way that will not come again. Go for it.

India, Pakistan Can’t Break the Ice, Even in Hour of Tragedy

Reported by Sanjeev Miglani for Reuters

Pakistan’s catastrophic flood continues to boggle the mind, both in terms of the human tragedy and the scale of the damage it has wrought, and even more so over the longer term. One official has likened the disaster to the cyclone that devastated what was once East Pakistan, setting off a chain of events that eventually led to its secession and the birth of Bangladesh.

Not even that spectre, raised by Pakistan’s ambassador to Britain, can however dent the steadfast hostility between India and Pakistan. For a full three weeks as the floods worked their way through the spine of Pakistan from the turbulent northwest to Sindh in the south, Islamabad made frantic appeals to the international community not ignore the slow-moving disaster, and help it with emergency aid, funds. But next-door India, best-placed to mount a relief effort probably more because of the geography than any special skill at emergency relief, was kept at arm’s length. An Indian aid offer of $5 million, which itself came after some hesitation and is at best modest,was lying on the table for days before Pakistan accepted it. ”There are a lot of sensitivities between India and Pakistan … but we are considering it very seriously,” a Pakistani embassy spokesman told our reporter in New Delhi earlier this week. Things appeared to have moved faster only after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani expressing sympathy and reminding him of the offer of aid. Millions of Pakistans meanwhile continued to struggle for food.

To some extent, Pakistan’s hesitation in accepting aid from India is understandable. India is the traditional enemy. It is also the bigger country of the two. And over the last two decades it has become easily the more prosperous entity, courted by the world’s industrialists while Pakistan is “haunted by the world’s terrorists”, as columnist Vir Sanghvi writes in the Hindustan Times. A Pew poll that we wrote about a few weeks ago showed how deep-seated these Pakistani fears are: a majority of those polled said they considered India to be the bigger threat than al Qaeda or the Taliban, despite the violence they have suffered at the hands of the militant groups over the past few years.

As Sanghvi writes:

But, to be fair to the Pakistanis, let us accept the position that decades of hostility between our two countries have led to a situation where the Pakistanis simply do not trust us. Let us also accept that they are so resentful of India that even in their hour of greatest crisis when thousands of people have died and millions are homeless, they will still spurn India’s hand of friendship. And let us grant them their claim that given our history, they are justified in being suspicious of India.

But then, you have to wonder, if the two nations cannot even keep up basic neighbourly ties such as offering aid and commiseration at times of natural crises, what chances they can ever come to a peace deal that will demand much more from them ?

It was pretty much the same in 2005 when the earthquake struck Pakistani Kashmir and the authorities struggled to provide aid to the affected. And Indian aid offer was initially ignored, later blankets from India were accepted. But even then Pakistan had people cut out the label that read ‘made in India’ on each blanket.

Indeed, some Pakistani writers are already criticising the government of bringing dishonour to the country by accepting Indian assistance. Commentator Shireen M. Mazari in a piece entitled “What Have We Become” says the Pakistani government accepted the Indian offer for help under pressure from the United States and that it was a matter of shame. By taking Indian aid, Pakistan had let the people of Kashmiri down just when they had risen in revolt against Indian forces.

“This money has the blood of Kashmiris on it and one wonders how our Kashmiri brethren must be feeling as they face the bullets of Indian forces every day and see us taking Indian “aid”,” Mazari wrote.

Kashmir, then, can’t be far from any discourse relating to India and Pakistan. It is the core dispute at the heart of 60 years of difficult ties, says Pakistan and must be resolved before any normalcy can take place. India doesn’t even consider the territory to be disputed, so the argument, at least in public, hasn’t changed much in over half a century.

For the 20 million affected by the flooding in Pakistan, and facing a future that would daunt any of us, Kashmir must, at the moment, be a distant thought.

Pakistan Accepts Flood Aid Money From Rival India

By Issam Ahmed for The Christian Science Monitor

Pakistan has accepted an offer of $5 million of flood aid from neighbor and longtime rival India, in a move that could spark a political backlash at home.

In an interview with Indian news channel NDTV, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi described the offer of aid, made last week, as a “very welcome initiative” which the government of Pakistan has agreed to accept, after taking some time to decide.

But it would have been better to say “thanks, but no thanks,” according to Liaqat Baloch, secretary general of Pakistan’s second-largest religious party, the Jamaat-e-Islami.

“Pakistan has many disputes with India, with reference to Kashmir, and the Indian Army engaging in brutality in occupied Kashmir,” he says. “In the past, when Pakistan tried to support India after their natural disasters, India never accepted. Therefore it would be better if our government refused the aid with a big thank you.”

Al Khidmet foundation, Jamaat-e-Islami’s charitable wing, has been one of the most visible aid organizations in the flood-affected areas.

The two countries have made efforts in recent months to repair bilateral relations, which took a plunge following the 2008 Mumbai attacks. India blames those attacks on Pakistan-backed militants. The two countries have fought three full-scale wars, most recently in 1999.

The United States had urged Pakistan to accept India’s offer of aid earlier this week. When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called his Pakistani counterpart to offer his condolences following the worst natural disaster in Pakistan’s history, it was an event widely reported in the Pakistan media.

“In such times of natural disasters, all of South Asia should rise to the occasion and extend every possible help to the people of Pakistan affected by the tragedy,” Mr. Singh said, according to a statement released by his office.

According to Badar Alam, editor of Pakistan’s Herald magazine, the amount of aid pledged is “symbolic, but its effect is immense. It’s a good confidence building measure between the two countries.”

But, he warns, Pakistan’s religious parties will try to spin the move “as a sign of weakness.”

“They will see it as a capitulation to India, that our own government is so weak we have been forced to accept help from the historic enemy,” says Mr. Alam.

Mosharraf Zaidi, a columnist for Pakistan’s The News, termed the decision brave: “It’s a tremendous gesture, very mature. India should be commended for donating it and Pakistan should be commended for accepting it.”

“The whole idea in an emergency is you’ll have the Jamat ud Dawas [the charitable wing of banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba] and you’ll have competing powers working almost in tandem to support people. It shows that no matter what our value systems, we have to work together right now,” he adds.

Some 20 million people are affected by Pakistan’s worst flooding in recent memory; Pakistan’s government estimates around 1,600 deaths and millions homeless or displaced. The United Nations appealed to the international community to donate $460 million in emergency assistance last week, and has met half of that goal. Yesterday the US increased its flood aid to Pakistan from $80 million to $150 million.

-Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- It is a good decision by the Pakistani government to accept the aid offer from India. Not only will this be a confidence building measure between the two nations, it will save countless lives, and no nation is too proud to save the lives of its citizens.

‘Abducted’ Nuclear Scientist Returns to Iran

By Nasser Karimi and Brian Murphy for The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran – Flashing a victory sign, an Iranian nuclear scientist who claims he was abducted and abused by U.S. agents a year ago returned Thursday to his homeland and into the heart of the latest crossfire between Washington and Tehran.

The conflicting accounts about Shahram Amiri — captive or defector who got cold feet — are unlikely to alter the Western-led pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

But Iran’s leaders are expected to use Amiri to ring up as many propaganda points as possible against Washington — showing that relations remain in a deep freeze and hopes of breakthrough talks appear as distant as ever.

It also gives the ruling clerics a welcome distraction at a time when domestic protests are growing over Iran’s stumbling economy and worries about the fallout from international sanctions.

Amiri’s return “shows the strength of the Islamic republic,” boasted lawmaker Amir Taherkhani. Another prominent parliament member, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, called the alleged kidnapping a “terrorist act.”

But the Washington Post reported that the CIA paid Amiri $5 million to provide intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. The Post in its online edition late Wednesday said the money came from a secret program aimed at inducing scientists and others with information on Iran’s nuclear program to defect.

U.S. officials also told the Post that Amiri should be unable to get to that money now that he’s returned to Iran, which is under financial sanctions.

It remains unclear how Iranian authorities will ultimately deal with Amiri — and the U.S. claims he cooperated with American authorities — despite his hero-style welcome.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called Amiri a “dear compatriot” and said Iran was keenly interested in learning more about the reasons for his alleged abduction.

Journalists were allowed to cover Amiri’s first steps back in Iran in a rare relaxation of media restrictions. The last such press gathering permitted at Tehran’s international airport was linked to another tussle with Washington: the May visit by the mothers of three jailed Americans arrested last year on the Iran-Iraq border.

Amiri’s pre-dawn arrival capped a stunning tumble of events over the past month that included leaked videos with mixed messages, Amiri surfacing at a diplomatic compound in Washington and the White House finally acknowledging his presence in the country.

The U.S. says he was a willing defector who changed his mind and decided to board a plane home from Washington. Amiri has told a very different tale, claiming he was snatched while on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and bundled off to the United States to be harshly interrogated and offered millions of dollars by the CIA to speak against Iran.

Amiri was embraced by his family — including his tearful 7-year-old son — and greeted by a top envoy from Iran’s Foreign Ministry. The 32-year-old Amiri smiled and gave the V-for-victory sign.

Speaking to journalists after a flight via Qatar, Amiri repeated his earlier claims that he was snatched while in the Saudi holy city of Medina and carried off to the United States.

The first months were full of intense pressures, he alleged. “I was under the harshest mental and physical torture,” he said at the Tehran airport, with his young son sitting on his lap.

He also alleged that Israeli agents were present during the interrogations and that CIA officers offered him $50 million to remain in America. He gave no further details to back up the claims or shed any new light on his time in the United States, but promised to reveal more later.

“I have some documents proving that I’ve not been free in the United States and have always been under the control of armed agents of U.S. intelligence services,” Amiri told reporters.

Previously he claimed that CIA agents “pressured me to help with their propaganda against Iran,” he said, including offering him up to $10 million to talk to U.S. media and claim to have documents on a laptop against Iran. He said he refused to take the money.

Amiri refused to say how — if under guard — he could have escaped U.S. agents to release videos in which he alleges that he had been snatched by American and Saudi kidnap teams while on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. He said that to disclose such information now could harm national security, and said he would explain everything later.

On Thursday, Amiri sought to play down his role in Iran’s nuclear program — which Washington and allies fear could be used to create atomic weapons. Iran says it only seeks energy-producing reactors.

“I am a simple researcher who was working in the university,” he said. “I’m not involved in any confidential jobs. I had no classified information.”

His case was often raised by Iranian officials in the past year, but Washington offered no public response. It took a higher profile after Iranian authorities decided to pursue charges against the three Americans arrested along the border with Iraq in July 2009.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Hassan Qashqavi, said there would be “no link” between Amiri’s return and the case of the three Americans, whose families say they were hiking in northern Iraq and that if they crossed the border, they did so inadvertently.

U.S. officials also have repeatedly asked Iran for information about Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007.

Amiri was generally a footnote in the international showdown over Iran’s nuclear ambitions until last month. Iranian state TV aired a video he purportedly made from an Internet cafe in Tucson, Arizona, to claim he was taken captive by U.S. and Saudi “terror and kidnap teams.”

The video was shortly followed by another, professionally produced clip in which he said he was happily studying for a doctorate in the United States. In a third, shaky piece of video, Amiri claimed to have escaped from U.S. agents in Virginia and insisted the second video was “a complete lie” that the Americans put out.

U.S. officials never acknowledged he was on American soil until Tuesday, hours after he turned up at the Iranian interests section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington asking to be sent home. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Amiri had been in the United States “of his own free will and he is free to go.”

On Thursday in Tehran, he asked American authorities to explain their secrecy.

“Why didn’t they allow me to have an open interview with the media in the United States?” he said. “Why didn’t they ever announce my presence?”

U.S. officials would say little about the circumstances of what they assert was a willing defection by Amiri and what went wrong. But there were suggestions that threats to his family in Iran pushed Amiri to first make the claims he was kidnapped. Amiri, however, claimed his family faced no problems. “My family was completely free and they were under financial support of the Iranian government,” he said.

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