The Quake that could Crack LoC
02 November, 2005
By Farzana Shah
While the world is calling recent devastating earthquake as a mountain of a Tsunami and terming it the deadliest, India is busy in point scoring at the expense of human tragedy. United Nation report has termed the disaster beyond the capacity of any government to deal with and is flashing appeals for more help but the Indian mindset has not spared the calamity to prove itself a regional power.
When India offered Pakistan relief for quake-victims world applauded it for the gesture and the world media termed it another CBM. Although, amongst the comity of the nations there was nothing unusual in it as the world`s response to such disasters is quite natural and is always based upon the humanitarian grounds.
Such media attention encouraged her further to come up with some clever ideas - ostensibly helping us but in reality to gain more political mileage - such as offering the copters and troops to cross over to our side of the LoC for relief and rescue operations. India, fully aware of the security sensibilities in the highly militarized zone, knew that Pakistan will decline the offer thus providing her with yet another chance of exploiting the situation.
The Indian attempt to keep IHK isolated for geopolitical reasons by not allowing foreign NGOs to undertake any rescue and help operations there which was also badly hit by the October 8 quake, leaving thousands dead and wounded shelter less, has also drawn criticism at home. Eminent Indian journalist Praful Bidwai while commenting on the situation in the wake of the earthquake wrote in an article "In fact disaster management and relief has long been politicized in the sub-continent. This has been glaringly obvious with the tsunami last December, when India was more anxious to project its power in the neighbourhood by dispatching relief teams than bringing succour to its own citizens in the South Andamans. (In keeping with power consideration, India also offered the United States $5 million assistance for Hurricane Katrina - a weird thing to do for a state that cannot look after its own poor people.")
Praful Bidwai rightly said that offering assistance to others when India can not take care of its own people is strange, especially when during the earthquake, as the world has seen, how it failed to cope up with the devastation caused in the occupied Kashmir, though comparatively much lesser than that of in Pakistan. In Uri, a town with 30,000 population and Tanghar area, 1300 people died and 32,000 were rendered homeless by the quake, but little relief was afforded by the Indian government to the victims.
India seemed to be more concerned to offer helicopters to Pakistan than starting any relief operation in the valley where even after three days of the holocaust no relief could be provided to the victims.
Yasin Malik - the President of the Jammu and Liberation Front speaking in the PTV `News Night` programme while stressing upon the modus operandi of distributing relief goods disclosed that in Kanwal Kot village of Uri which was hit by the quake, people did not have any water to drink as the Indian government had failed to reach them out even after the passage of three days of the quake. He further said that they retrieved 162 dead bodies who had died because of thirst in Kanwal Kot.
The BBC correspondent when asked a boy from the same Kanwal Kot village about the relief to them and the Indian offer to Pakistan, the boy could only muse that despite Indian offers to Pakistan India had not come to their aid.
If the Indians were serious to help Pakistan they could have sent the relief goods immediately instead of making proposals and forwarding impossible ideas to implement. Their much publicized first consignment of relief goods included only 50 tents in it. There were hundreds of ways that India could help Pakistan including sharing of the seismic data with Pakistan and opening the LoC as President Musharraf has proposed allowing Kashmiris on either sides to help each other.
Praful Bidwai also wrote in his article, "India generously offered relief material to Pakistan but it has refused to share seismic data with Pakistan for the fear that the data could be used to detect the precise location of its any future nuclear experiment (including non explosive tests called hydro nuclear tests). In reality such test sites are known to the entire international science establishments through thousands of seismographs placed all over the globe. The real reason for India`s refusal lies in its nuclear ambitions and its opposition to the comprehensive test ban treaty. Although this would still not allow earthquake prediction, it could substantially cut the response-time to earthquake and save lives."
Interestingly India emphasized on joint relief efforts along the LoC. However, when President Musharraf proposed opening of the LoC at five points India seems reluctant and insists upon the opening it at three points only and that too with many conditions. The Indian team arrived on Friday to discuss the modalities for the opening of these three points, but it is not known that how many days it will take to reach a final decision on the issue. One thing, however, is clear that as the time passes there may not be any use for opening even these three points as the access to Nellam Valley from Indian side will be denied by the snows after 15 to 20 days leaving only the Jhelum valley road to reach the victims. Another disturbing aspect is the Indian decision of not allowing Kashmiris from Pakistani side to cross over to IHK. Surprisingly, all Indian assistance ranging from copters, to opening the LoC and monitory assistance are bound with one or the other condition. India would offer Pakistan $25 million for quake victims but Pakistan will buy the cement and other construction material from India with the money.
The Indian Defence Minister Parnab Mukherjee was quoted by reporters as saying "No romanticism could be attached to it." There are ground realities, which we have to recognize." He further said that an "earthquake could not change the history of 50 years."
Now, if India has ground realities, could Pakistan be blamed for its security concerns to accept Indian offer of its army`s joint operation along the LoC and use of its copters with the Indian pilots flying them over the sensitive areas with all the modern imaging instruments onboard?
President Musharraf made a sincere offer that could have been used for strengthening the peace process between the arch rivals but unfortunately India has blown it away. Ironically, the catastrophe offered an opportunity when the Indians could have risen above the petty and viewed the opportunities it offered with a farsighted maturity for the future weal and progress of the region in particular and the sub continent in general. The calamitous earthquake could prove to be the harbinger of a new change - a change for the better, a friendlier change - in the region and for both the countries to live in peace and prosperity for ever.