October 12, 2005

Sensitivity and arrival

What is it about accepting aid when great disasters happen? Why is it always so politically fraught? After the tsunami devastated the Tamil Nadu coast last December, India announced that it would not accept aid from abroad. Many Indians were thrilled with this decision, clinging to it because it proved to them that India had become a player on the global stage, whatever that means. By the tens of thousands, lives were devastated, but no matter, we had "arrived".

Today, when a quake has ravaged Pakistan, it's that country's turn. President Musharraf wants foreign financial assistance, and appreciates India's offer of help, but says there are "sensitivities" involved. Therefore, it will take Pakistan a few days to "decide" about the Indian offer.

Which seems like a roundabout way of saying, simply, "No! Thanks, but no!"

I always wonder: when such decisions are made, are the victims of the calamity consulted? I mean, remember Arko Dutta's searing shot of the wailing woman on the Nagapattinam shore? Did some high up Government official go up to her and say: "You'll be proud to know, we are refusing aid from abroad!" In much the same way, remember the photograph of Pakistani rescue workers trying to pull from the rubble a visible victim of one of those building collapses in Islamabad? Did one of Musharraf's aides yell down to him: "Hang in there, we're aware of the sensitivities involved in accepting aid from India!"

I imagine those things didn't happen. Why?

The only sensitivity should be to the victims of tragedy. Yet nationhood is such a prickly issue, it overwhelms even great tragedy. Which is a tragedy by itself.


POSTSCRIPT: General Musharraf has changed his mind, I'm glad to find out. Here's one report about Indian relief material arriving in Pakistan. Good news, and I'm glad to be eating my words on this score.


wise donkey said...

Even after the Tsunami I am confused on what exactly do we mean by Foreign Aid.
And why we refuse it. Does the Aid come with certain conditions, or some loopholes?

Or is it that that particular Aid would be accepted if its channelised thru UN or Red Cross?

Anonymous said...

The Pioneer Edit Desk


12th Oct 2005

The gruesome killing of nine Hindus in a remote village of
Rajouri on Sunday night is a grim reminder that the ethnic cleansing of Jammu & Kashmir by jihadis continues unabated. It also proves that all claims of communal harmony in that State, especially as articulated by the
All-Party Hurriyat Conference which of late has been shedding crocodile tears over the plight of more than 250,000 Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to flee their homes in the Valley 15 years ago and now live wretched lives
in refugee camps, is nothing more than fiction.

What underscores the brutality of Sunday night's killing more
than the ritual slitting of the victims' throats is that many of the dead had barely escaped Saturday's devastating earthquake only to die at the hands of rabid
Islamists. Early reports indicate that the killers are foreign
terrorists who crossed into Indian territory from Pakistan which only goes to show that contrary to Islamabad's assertion that it has dismantled jihadi camps and
cracked down on Islamists, the terror infrastructure remains intact and active.