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Helping Pakistan

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.

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8 Responses to Helping Pakistan

  1. history_lover August 18, 2010 at 12:03 am #

    A tiny quible
    It’s sadqat al fitr which is associated with Ramadan.
    Zakat is a different charity although some muslim pay out out thier annual zakat charity in Ramadan itself.

  2. Rohan Joshi August 18, 2010 at 6:12 am #

    @history_lover: Thanks, duly noted in the post. 🙂

  3. SJ August 18, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    I Relevant Principles

    (i) The morality of accidental proximity – the question of when we have a duty to help a stranger we have encountered by chance who needs our assistance. There are four elements to establishing the duty to assist the stranger: the stranger’s plight is desperate; there is no one else helping him; we are there; we are able to help him. An important question is how much the morality of accidental proximity requires of us.

    (ii) Perfect and imperfect duties – the distinction between duties we must fulfil in a certain way (e.g. the duty not to kill) and duties that we must fulfil, but where we have discretion as to how to do so (e.g. the duty of charity). This distinction is substantially equivalent to distinction between negative and positive duties.

    (iii) Particularistic and cosmopolitan moralities – the distinction between basing duties to others on prior and continuing relationships, whether familial, friendly, national… and basing duties to others on the idea that every human being counts equally. This corresponds to distinction between “thick” ethics and “thin” morality. The basis of caring for others must be a common past and common memories. One reason for this, is that cosmopolitan morality on its own is not sufficient motivation to overcome our tendency to inertia. Is motivation the only plausible reason to prefer particularistic to cosmopolitan morality?

    II Application of Principles

    (i) Aid between individuals – Our duties as individuals to assist others – the poor in our own societies or in other parts of the world.

    (ii) Aid between states – We have a negative (perfect) duty not to contribute to the perpetuation of misery. Is the claim persuasive? (The basis of the claim is that radical inequality is the result of: the effects of shared social institutions such as the world trading system, military aid; uncompensated exclusion of poor countries from natural resources; the effects of a common and violent history.) Is this an attempt to make a particularist argument?

  4. True_Indian August 18, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    Donto give a single paise to pakistan but we must help pakistan in other ways. If we give money , chances are that Pakistan will use this money to fund to keep stone pelting activities in kashmir. The aid given by USA for humanatrian causes is aleady misused by pakistan. lets not be too emotional , be rational.

  5. Vivek August 19, 2010 at 1:34 am #

    With food grain rotting, inflation on the rise, wouldnt it be stupid to offer support through Grain. I feel medicine and first aid kits would be a much better support mechanism. While I dont know if this kind of support is practical or not, I am most certain that if GoI cant do it by itself it can take help of charities like Red Cross to do this. Support through Food Grain is not a very good option, IMHO

  6. True_Indian August 19, 2010 at 2:23 am #

    I have serious doubt that Pakistan will ever accept any aid from India , though many well known foreign policy players are adovacting an aid from India. If pak does so , it would be clearly against its foreign policy principles which it is practicing since its inception.In past many occasions , Pakistan has refused Indian aids as they “don’t want to eat Indian Wheat”. Those who knows Pakistan’s attitude toward India by each and every every bit and byte , they will also have same opinion.

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