New Delhi (02/09 – 40.00) In his first statement on the floods in Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said he was “saddened” to see the devastation and “hoped for an early restoration of normalcy”.
The Indian Express has learnt that discussions are underway at the highest levels on the possibility of extending humanitarian assistance to Pakistan. While no decision has been taken yet, top officials in South Block are learnt to be discussing the options on the table.
If cleared, it will be the first time since the BJP government came to power in 2014 that India will be extending aid to Pakistan on account of a natural disaster.
In the past, under the then UPA government, India extended assistance to Pakistan for the floods in 2010, and for the earthquake in 2005.
“Saddened to see the devastation caused by the floods in Pakistan. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, the injured and all those affected by this natural calamity and hope for an early restoration of normalcy,” Modi said in a tweet.
According to the latest data, the floods have claimed over 1,100 lives in Pakistan so far. The cash-strapped government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has made an appeal for aid to deal with the crisis that is said to have displaced 33 million or one-seventh of the country’s population.
Earlier in the day, responding to questions at a press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said the government could “consider importing vegetables and other edible items from India” to facilitate people after the floods destroyed crops across the country, state-owned Radio Pakistan reported.
After Shehbaz Sharif became the Prime Minister in April this year, he had said that Pakistan remains committed to “regional peace and security” and seeks “peaceful and cooperative” ties with India. This was conveyed in a letter to Modi, in response to his letter to the Pakistan PM.
The two had exchanged messages as well, where Sharif had asked Modi to come forward to address the Kashmir issue so that the two countries could concentrate on tackling poverty and unemployment, and Modi had congratulated Sharif and said that India desires peace and stability in a region free of terrorism.