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Thursday, August 26, 2010

India bearing gifts - Zafar Hilaly

The question arose whether Pakistan should accept the Indian offer in view of public outrage. One is not aware of the intensity of the debate in government but outside the portals of power it was heated

A gift regardless of its value should, as a norm, be gracefully received. However, the timing of the gift and the manner of the giving is also important, often more than the worth of the gift. However, when states are the recipients and disasters the reason, the amount donated becomes significant.

The amount that Manmohan Singh offered Pakistan’s 20 million displaced was $ 5 million, widely regarded as negligible, actually a pittance, considering it was the worst flood in living memory anywhere in the world. And, in view of the destruction wrought, estimated in billions, many considered Mr Singh’s offer niggardly, almost heartless. More so when they learnt how well the Indian economy is performing. Rwanda Burundi, some say, could do better. One solitary Arab sheikh boasted that he donated more than the whole of ‘shining’ India.

If, then, the amount was outrageously small, what of the timing? In some respects that was even worse. It came in the midst of yet another murderous assault on Kashmiris by India’s occupation forces. It was accompanied by the lie that Kashmiris were being put up to it by Pakistan. Indian leaders may have mastered the oily art of deception but, if the truth were told, Kashmiris have exposed the liars amongst Indians.

The question arose whether Pakistan should accept the Indian offer in view of public outrage. One is not aware of the intensity of the debate in government but outside the portals of power it was heated. “Personally,” said a friend, himself a contributor to several well-known international publications, and hardly an Indophobe, “I would have rejected it. It shows India’s insensitivity towards Pakistan, by that I mean not the state but also the people, and only confirms India’s hatred.”

His take on the offer was very similar to other missives one has received. One in particular noted, “We knew that a bania will always remain a bania, but now a Sikh has become a bania.” Another wrote, “Remember we will owe India nothing, not even sympathy in death.”

As it happened, the government rightly, in one’s view, accepted the Indian offer. Not because killing unarmed and innocent Kashmiris does not hurt, and true it shows up India as India is, but because it would be counter to the etiquette of inter-state dealings to reject what is offered, however paltry the amount. There is another reason: either Pakistan should not have asked for aid, or having done so must now accept whatever is offered. This was done and sensibly so, although many are upset that the government withstood considerable pressure to the contrary.

M J Akbar, a well-known Indian journalist, felt that in case Pakistan had refused the assistance it would demonstrate Pakistan’s “visceral animosity” and that Mr Singh’s best response would have been a civilised handshake “even if he has to count the fingers after the hand has been shaken”. Whether Mr Singh would have acted thus, we do not know, but what he says does provide a revealing insight of M J Akbar’s own visceral animus towards Pakistan.

But then, Indian Muslim journalists, with one or two notable exceptions, seem to believe that the only way to assure the majority community of India that their loyalties should remain beyond suspicion is by heaping abuse on Pakistan. Possibly also because it helps them boast, as much to themselves as to other Indian Muslims, that at the time of independence their fathers made the right choice by staying on in India.

Such self-insurance is understandable, given the massive discrimination, especially in north and central India, against Muslims in general, which is borne out in a number of statistics concerning the employment of Muslims in government departments and was also reflected in an admirably candid parliamentary report on the plight of the Indian Muslims today. But to go off the edge whenever Pakistan is mentioned seems excessive. Sometimes the devil is not as black as he is painted.

As for counting one’s fingers after shaking hands with Pakistanis, that is certainly one view of the precautions which need to be taken by Indians although the last time Hanif Mohammed accepted the extended hand of an irate Indian spectator, after his magnificent effort in the 1960 Kanpur Test, he had his wrist slashed, rendering him unfit for the next test.

There is the view, which M J Akbar endorses, that Pakistan would have refused Singh’s offer had it not been for getting “rapped on its knuckles by America” and told to accept. There is no doubt that being an ally Pakistan does lend an ear to the US’s counsel, and Mr Zardari lends a bit more than that, perhaps both his ears, but that is far from saying that this is the only voice that counts. Pakistan listens to the US only when Pakistan wants to, or else we would have forsaken nuclear weapons, decommissioned the missiles pointing at Delhi and Mumbai, settled on Kashmir belonging to India and, more pertinently, not kept as many forces as we do on the border with India. A wise man, it is said, believes nothing of what he hears and only half of what he sees. The likes of M J Akbar, alas, have a penchant to believe only what they want to hear and see, which is not there. Vain are the surmises that move such men, worthless as withered reeds.

Mr Singh has miscalculated badly unless his gesture was made to cause affront. It would have been far better and more economical to send a team of doctors to Pakistan on a two-week trip to care for the sick. However, it seems that he preferred to go out of his way to give offence that will prove unhelpful. There will be no magnanimity on either side if and when negotiations resume.

(The writer is a former Ambassador).
NOTE:This is a cross post.


  1. After dilly-dallying for several days, Pakistan recently accepted India’s offer to provide USD 5 million for the millions of victims of the devastating floods that have swept the country. The naïve Prime Minister has asked those opposed to taking aid from India to give reasons for their stand. he Meteorological Department has confirmed that the Monsoons, which were slightly higher than normal as well as the glacial melting, are not the real reasons for the flooding. The worst deluge in Pakistan’s history, which has killed nearly 2,000 people and affected 3.6 million people, is mamade.Reports state Indian macabre plans included the simultaneous release of water in the Kabul River from the Indian engineers’ controlled Sarobi Dam in Afghanistan and the half a dozen dams in Indian Occupied Kashmir, flooding the Chenab and Indus. While the first wave wreaked havoc but Pakistani authorities failed to challenge India for its heinous crime against humanity, New Delhi again released a massive 18,000 cusec feet of water from a dam in Indian-occupied Kashmir into Pakistan, prompting fresh fears of floods in the plains of Punjab and Sindh. In order to hoodwink the International Community, India offered USD 5 million in aid, which Pakistan greedily gobbled up. Prime Minister Gilani should not put salt in the wound of Pakistanis by shamelessly accepting the aid and then thumping his chest that it has enhanced Pakistan’s image. The lack of comprehension of the gravity of the diplomatic faux-pas is lost on Mr. Gilani. India continues to illegally occupy Kashmir; its forces regularly massacre innocent Kashmiris, rape their women and kidnap their youth. It is waters from the dams in Kashmir, which have killed the 2000 and displaced 20 million Pakistanis for whom Mr. Gilani is seeking aid to the tune of USD 15 Billion. However, by accepting from India the 5 million USD, which are tainted with the blood of the Kashmiri martyrs, the silent wails of the Kashmiri women and the Kashmiri children, who have been maimed for life is insulting the Kashmiris as well as those Pakistanis, who have lost their kith and kin as well as their life-savings and meager belongings due to the floods aggravated by India.

  2. If Mr. Gilani is a bona fide Pakistani, he must take India to the International Court of Justice for releasing waters in the Pakistani rivers, without ample warning, contrary to the Indus Water Treaty and all norms of justice and human rights. The Indian dams had been full for the past two to three years. Until a week ago, on 16 Aug., Pakistan’s Meteorological Office confirmed there was no chance of flooding in the northern rivers of Ravi and Sutlej. Suddenly over the weekend, flood warning was issued to five drainages of River Ravi catchment areas in wake of possible flood due to release of water in river Ravi by India. As per details, India has released 18000-cusec water in river Ravi that could cause flood in five drainages of Narowal and Shakergarh. Metrological department had predicted water level in river Ravi would remain low during next 24 hours but after release of water by India low-level flood has hit drainage Bhutsen and Basantar of River Ravi catchment area, besides more drainages of Jhajri, Oojh and Khattar could be affected by the possible flood. Despite sharing rivers with Afghanistan and Indian-occupied Kashmir, no flooding has been witnessed in either Afghanistan or Indian-occupied Kashmir. Successive waves of flooding in Pakistan despite no rains for the past ten days raise a question mark on the amount of water India has released from its dozens of dams in Kashmir exploiting torrential rains and what initially started as limited flooding in northern Pakistan. Thus Pakistan has a strong case if only the government had the guts but it has been compromised by accepting a measly USD 5 million by India.

  3. Pakistan is in a habit of passing the buck on.
    IF you are such a RESPECTABLE country, why take our Aid Money?
    Rats always live in water!

  4. If Aid is offered it should be accepted with Grace, and not HURT the feelings of the Aid giver,,India is NO AMERICA and will not give us $170 Million but even when 5 Million is pittance it is something and we must accept it graciously as America has beeen Shaming China , japan and other countries to move their '"Behinds" and help Pak ASAP... now Talibans are saying that they will attack foreign Aid Workers This is UNISLAMIC, and Ludicrious!!

  5. Arif....did you read the good Ambassador's article?
    Or are you Krishan Sanjotra masquerading as Arif?

  6. FOR anyone still believing in Indian altruism towards Pakistan in it hour of suffering and need, a brief look at Indian actions recently will put an end to any such thoughts. Of course if India really wanted to offer aid to Pakistan without seeking political capital from it, it would have given it through the United Nations fund. But that was never the Indian intent. After all, India has continued to release water into Pakistan’s overflowing rivers deliberately to aggravate the flood situation. This is why India has refused to put in place a telemetry system as part of the Indus Waters Treaty infrastructure. Nor is this all. Indian opportunism knows no bounds and they are already exploiting Pakistan’s misfortunes as a result of the flood devastation - especially in the agricultural sector. Already the markets in the cities are filled with Indian vegetables and one needs to ask how these are coming in? Have we removed all restrictions on Indian trade through Wagah?
    But it is not just the vegetable market India is eyeing. The Indian government has already moved to take advantage of the destruction of the bulk of Pakistan’s cotton crop as a result of the floods. Knowing that the textile industry would suffer a shortfall of local cotton, the Indian government has lifted an earlier ban on cotton export to enable India to meet the Pakistani textile industry’s anticipated demand. The ban had been in place to keep domestic prices down. Now, with a bumper cotton harvest and ample rain, Indian producers are all ready to export cotton to Pakistan in October. Apparently Pakistan has been importing cotton from India earlier also. However, the dynamics are different now with India’s suspect role of releasing water into our overflowing rivers. There is also the present Indian hostile posturing towards Pakistan and its refusal to renew the composite dialogue. Finally, there is the renewed killing of Kashmiris by Indian forces in Occupied Kashmir. As it is, our government has maintained a shameful silence on this issue and no official voice has been raised in support of the new Kashmiri intifada. To allow Indian cotton producers to benefit from our flood disaster would be immoral and politically ridiculous since it would effectively reflect a tacit condoning of India’s hostile posture. Not only should Pakistan’s textile industry look to other cotton producers like China, the Pakistan government should make its India policy, especially in terms of trade, transparent. What exactly have we given to India in terms of trade access? At a time when India is actively seeking to undermine Pakistan on all fronts including abetting militancy within the country, especially in Balochistan, Pakistan’s government needs to stand firm against any Indian intrusion into our economic sphere - especially at the cost of the people of Pakistan’s interests.
    ARIF & SHEHKAR:Go take a JUMP!

  7. Reading the article by Zafar,and the subsequent comments of Laila,summaya & ibrahim,it is evident,that India master minded,the release of Dam waters,from the Kabul Basin,which she controls,as well the Dams on our Eastern Rivers,the income which they will reap from the seed they have sown,the cotton and vegetables alone,will cover their investment,many fold plus it will enrich their middle men,who pose as patriots here in our country,the aman ke asha lot,we have accepted the pro-verbal Greek poison,which was always coated with sugar,the $ 5 million was the coating.

  8. Our Diplomacy overseen by Americans apart,no one has accepted aid from India heartilty.It is too little and very demeaning from the ever 'bania and animostic neighbour.'

  9. The United States aid program, under the five-year Kerry-Lugar Bill, will also now need to be reframed, with front-loading of the aid to speed up relief and reconstruction work.
    he central government led by the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) of President Asif Ali Zardari is weak and often seen as ineffective.
    The floods have dealt Pakistan a severe body blow while it was still reeling from the economic crisis, political infighting, and the war against terror. The diversion of resources and attention to the flood relief and reconstruction work will undoubtedly affect social spending and the drive against the Pakistani Taliban, whose fighters have been dislocated from their tribal bases in the Northwest Frontier region and have taken the war back into the Pakistani hinterland.
    And SIMON, thank you for the forthright comment.I hope the likes of Arif(?)and Doves of Peace to REALIZE INDIA IS & WILL ALWAYS BE YOUR ENEMY TILL CORE ISSUES ARE SETTLED WHICH THEY WILL NOT LET HAPPEN!

  10. I don't why we are even discussing this issue. No Patriotic Pakistani would ever say yes to Indian aid. I can bet no Indian Govt will ever accept any Pakistani aid even if India was destitute. I know out Govt's hands are tied as they HAVE to obey their masters but have we also lost all Ghairat, if ever we had any. On one hand India stabs us in the back and our Govt has no guts to say no to their aid-----------SHAME

  11. I share a comment from Shahid R Siddiqi whose articles we have shared on blog:
    I endorse the writer's opinion that India's donation of $ 5 million to 20 million flood victims is a pittance and that Mr. Singh was perhaps making a point when showing this inadequate gesture. But given the acrimony that exists what else could you expect from the next door neighbor who would not miss any opportunity to make you feel small.

    As for a Sikh having become a bania, we must not overlook the fact that the Sikh in this case serves at the pleasure of the bania and must speak the latter's voice.

    Nevertheless, if Pakistan accepted this Indian gift in line with the diplomatic norms and the etiquette of interstate relationship, it did the right thing. I think by accepting this meager contribution we have only shown our graciousness.

    Shahid Siddiqi

  12. Another from Shahid Husain, a friend:
    I understand the situation and yes I can see that to India this may be a PR gimmick but 5 million dollars can go a long way. This does not mean that we stop our protests against what is happening in Kashmir or raise other issues like water. Let’s see that facts on the ground. The people who never tire of telling us of how Pakistani they are (politicians, feudals, businessmen, jamatis) – how much have they donated?

    Irrespective of what India is trying to achieve we know what we can achieve with 5 million dollars so let us thank them graciously and get on with saving lives.

    Shahid Husain