Pakistan and India should adopt a joint regional approach to effectively deal with natural disasters such as the April 25 earthquake in Nepal and India, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a telephonic conversation with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Thursday.
The prime minister also expressed condolences to Modi over the loss of lives in India as a result of the earthquake, said a statement issued by the Foreign Office here.
Nawaz called the Indian prime minister a day after he told a Saudi newspaper that New Delhi was not serious about resuming the stalled peace process. However notwithstanding the current hiccup in bilateral ties, the two prime ministers agreed the need for collective efforts to minimise the damage in natural catastrophes.
The statement said Nawaz offered Modi his “condolences and sympathies over the loss of precious lives” and devastation caused by the earthquake in India. “While sympathising with the government as well as the bereaved families of the victims, the prime minister said that Pakistan and its people express support and solidarity with the government and the people of India and are ready to extend every possible assistance that may be needed,” the statement quoted the premier as telling Modi.
Nawaz reiterated what he had said during last year’s floods on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) that natural disasters of this nature highlight the importance of a joint regional approach for their effective management.
The Indian prime minister using his Twitter account said he suggested to the Pakistani prime minister that Saarc nations should conduct joint exercises on disaster relief.
“Saarc nations can come together and hold annual exercises of rescue teams, doctors etc on how we can minimise damage during natural disasters,” reads one of his tweets after telephonic conversation with Nawaz.
He said Prime Minister Nawaz appreciated India’s efforts in the rescue operations in Nepal. “I thank him for his kind words,” he added.
Food aid controversy
Even as the two leaders exchanged ideas for disaster management, the Foreign Office reacted strongly to Indian reports about the beef-laced food dispatched to the victims of earthquake in Nepal by Pakistan.
Indian doctors at Kathmandu’s Bir Hospital told the Indian media that packets of ‘beef masala’ were sent by Pakistan on Tuesday as part of relief aid to the temblor survivors. The reports said since the majority-Hindu country treats cows as sacred and there is a blanket ban on slaughtering the animal, the development has the potential of triggering diplomatic acrimony between the SAARC member countries.
“It is unfortunate that Indian media has not even spared a humanitarian mission and has, unnecessarily, tried to inject controversy into it,” foreign office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told reporters at her weekly briefing.
She clarified that the Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) was a pre-packed kit of 20 items for a full day’s meals. “On each and every packet inside the kit the name of the dish is clearly written in English and Urdu so that people may choose whatever they like to eat or discard,” she explained.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2015.
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