India is uniquely positioned to help Pakistan not through cash, but in kind.
Floods in Pakistan have killed more than 1,500 people and left millions homeless. The international community, however, has been slow to respond to the disaster. Several reasons for this exist — from a latent realization of the enormity of the damage to public perception of Pakistan in the context of the war in Afghanistan, and of how aid money may be misused by Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership.
In the context of the natural disaster, India has offered to provide $5 million in aid relief to Pakistan. The message was conveyed by S.M. Krishna to his counterpart, S.M. Qureshi. India’s offer has drawn mixed reaction in Pakistan. Nawa-i-Waqt‘s editorial (اردو) on August 14 effectively advised Islamabad to refuse Indian aid, citing what it called India’s “human rights violations in Kashmir.” Additionally, it blamed India for the natural disaster in Pakistan, saying that India exacerbated the problem by releasing water from rivers Beas and Sutlej into Pakistan.
These disasters occur at a time when India is trying to play a bigger role within its own region and internationally. What’s more, India happens to be uniquely positioned to play a pivotal role in assisting Pakistan, a country within its own region. Charity, they say, begins at home. The challenges Pakistan faces today are tremendous. Quite simply, this is what India must do. It must offer to provide aid to Pakistan, not so much in cash as in kind. The month of Ramadan is upon the Muslim world; the Daily Express’ August 16 editorial (اردو) highlights the plight of ordinary civilians in Pakistan, who have nothing to break their fasting to each day, apart from water.
India must offer to provide not cash, but food-grain to Pakistan. India has land access to Pakistan, something that no other country capable of delivering aid to Pakistan has, with the exception of China. Aid-in-kind mechanisms provide two main benefits. First, they remove process inefficiencies and allow expedited access of aid to those most affected by the calamity. Second, they limit the ability of those in positions of power to misuse the aid, something that Western governments and international donors are most concerned about. India’s offer of aid-in-kind should contain two options. India can air drop aid to affected areas in Pakistan with the permission of the Pakistani government. If this is unacceptable, given the India and Pakistan’s history, India can offer to deliver food-grain to Pakistan’s forces or Pakistan’s NDMA at Wagah, who can then directly distribute them to the affected areas.
Of course, Pakistan’s government may still choose to refuse food-grain donations from India and effectively tell its citizens to eat cake instead. But in the month of Ramadan, the act of charity, or sadkat al-fitr is connected with the sacred act of sawam (fasting) itself. If the Pakistani government chooses to rebuff India’s offer, it had better have a pretty good explanation for its refusal to the international community and more importantly, to its own people. Hopefully, better sense will prevail in Pakistan.