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India raises Pak flood aid five fold

New Delhi, Aug. 31: India today increased its humanitarian aid to Pakistan’s flood victims by five times — from an initial $5 million to $25 million.

The increase follows a “more concrete assessment of the damage inflicted by the natural disaster”, external affairs minister S.M. Krishna told the Lok Sabha today.

“We cannot remain unconcerned with this grave humanitarian crisis of enormous magnitude in our immediate neighbourhood,” he said.

The aid will be routed through the UN.

India had committed relief material worth $5 million on August 13 which Pakistan had accepted after initial reluctance.

On August 19, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had expressed India’s willingness to do more in a telephonic conversation with his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani.

The increase follows Singh’s offer.

Sources in the government said that with the aid hike, New Delhi also wanted to counter the propaganda by Islamic radical organisations in Pakistan that India had caused the floods by releasing excess water from dams in Jammu and Kashmir.

In the Lok Sabha, Krishna said the floods, the worst in 80 years, had caused widespread damage to life and property.

“All four provinces of Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have suffered the consequences. Latest reports indicate that the flood situation in Sindh continues to deteriorate even as flood waters recede in Punjab,” said Krishna, who had called Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on August 13 to offer the initial $5 million. Islamabad took several days to accept India’s gesture and did so only after a nudge from the US.

Krishna cited an assessment by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that 17.2 million people had been affected and over 1,600 had died because of the floods. Over 1.2 million houses have been destroyed.

“As a more concrete assessment of the damage inflicted by this natural disaster and the urgent needs of the people of Pakistan emerges, the government has decided to increase its assistance to Pakistan from $5 million, announced earlier, to $25 million,” S.M. Krishna said.

On August 27, Islamabad had requested New Delhi to route the aid through the UN. The US has been asking Pakistan’s immediate neighbours — which mainly meant India — to contribute more to the flood aid.

In his Lok Sabha statement, Krishna also referred to the Prime Minister’s call to “all of south Asia” to help the flood victims. “The Prime Minister has rightly said that in such times of natural disasters, all of South Asia should rise to the occasion and extend every possible help to the affected people.,” the foreign minister said.

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