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Briefing by Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran on the recent Earthquake

New Delhi
October 10, 2005

Foreign Secretary : Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh received the Pakistani High Commissioner, Aziz Ahmad Khan, at 7 RCR this evening.

Prime Minister asked the High Commissioner to convey to President Musharraf and to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz the profound sympathies of the Government and people of India on the massive loss of lives and property suffered by the people of Pakistan in the recent earthquake. The people of India, he said, have been deeply moved by the images of destruction and human suffering that they have been witnessing on the Television in the past couple of days. Our hearts go out, he added, to the people of entire villages and communities which have been devastated by this natural disaster. He said, this was a great humanitarian crisis and we would like to help in whatever way we can to alleviate the sense of loss and suffering of the Pakistani people.

The High Commissioner said that Heads of Missions of friendly countries had been provided a list of essential materials which could be supplied on a priority basis. He said that any assistance from India in the form of such materials would be deeply appreciated. We understand that the items required include tents and plastic sheets, blankets and mattresses, food items and a variety of medicines and medical supplies.

The Prime Minister has directed that a consignment of these items should be put together on an urgent basis and delivered to Pakistan at the earliest. The concerned agencies are already at work in organizing an airlift of these items by tomorrow evening subject to clearances being obtained.

QUESTION: Any rescue efforts from our side along the LoC? When I talked to someone in Uri today he said that Pakistanis cannot reach those areas while it would be very easy for us to reach. Is there any suggestion like this?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Yes, we have in fact conveyed to the Pakistani side that there are, as you say, certain areas along the LoC which may be easier to access from the Indian side. What we have said is that if they can tell us the locations of these areas where they would like us to provide relief supplies across the LoC, and even perhaps send across foot patrols of medical personnel, we would be very happy to mobilize that. This has been noted by the Pakistani side. If there is any requirement, they will certainly come back to us. What I can tell you is that there is a very good atmosphere of mutual help at the LoC itself and very good understanding. We are told that normally helicopter sorties do not go very close to the LoC. But, in fact on both sides since the areas which have been devastated by the earthquake are very close to the LoC, we are allowing Pakistani helicopters to come right up to the LoC. I am very happy to say that the same thing is being done from (to) our side because we also need to reach some of our own villages which are at the LoC itself. So, the atmosphere is very good.

QUESTION: Any specific numbers that we have decided (for relief supplies)?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: That is being put together. We will probably have a transport aircraft which takes about 25 tonnes of relief supplies. So, things like blankets, mattresses, there would be a fairly large consignment of medicines. These are in the process of being put together. We hope, by tomorrow afternoon we should have one plane load which should be ready for airlift.

QUESTION: Why did not we announce unilaterally monetary aid for Pakistan and what is the amount of the consignment that is being sent?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I cannot tell you what the monetary amount is. As I said, the first consignment, which we are putting together, would be about a plane load, which is about 25 tonnes. What exactly is the monetary value, I am afraid I will have to find out from our agencies and let you know later.

QUESTION: What I was asking was why did not we announce some monetary aid for Pakistan unilaterally when many countries have announced monetary help.
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Prime Minister had already in his conversation with President Musharraf said that in whatever form assistance is required by Pakistan, we would be very happy to provide. Since we now have a list of specific items which have been indicated by Pakistan, and these specific items are available with us for immediate delivery, I think that is the best way of responding to the needs of the Pakistani people at this stage.

QUESTION: What is the feedback that the High Commissioner gave Prime Minister? If the consignment goes tomorrow, will it be the first ever since 1971?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I should think so. But you are asking me a history question which I am not fully familiar with. I think I could fairly confidently say that this would be the first time.

QUESTION: What is the feedback?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: At the meeting itself what High Commissioner conveyed to Prime Minister was that both President Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz were very deeply appreciative of the message of sympathy and solidarity which had been conveyed by the Prime Minister and also the offer for assistance that would be required by Pakistan. In that context he drew attention to the fact that just an hour or so before the meeting took place this evening that a meeting had been called by the Pakistani Foreign Secretary of Heads of Missions of various friendly countries where a list of items had been provided where relief supplies would be welcome by Paksitan. So, it is on that basis that immediately after the meeting and on Prime Minister’s instructions we have been working to organize the airlift as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Where would it be airlifted to? Islamabad or …
FOREIGN SECRETARY: We have asked the Pakistani side where they would like the aircraft to land.

QUESTION: Have they indicated anything?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Not yet.

QUESTION: You mentioned that the atmosphere is really good. Do you see any chance of a joint relief operation?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I do not see any indication yet that there could be joint operations. But, as I mentioned to you, there are certain points along the LoC which are more easily accessible from the Indian side. So, if those particular points are indicated to us by our Pakistani friends where they would like us to send relief material across or even some medical help, we are geared to provide that.

QUESTION: What about doctors and paramedical staff?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: As I mentioned to you, we have indicated that along the LoC if there are any points which are not so accessible from the Pakistani side, we have the wherewithal to provide that kind of medical assistance from our side. I would also like to mention that in Islamabad the meeting which was held with the Heads of Missions, the Pakistani side also indicated that they do not any more wish to have relief teams or medical teams coming to Pakistan because they have sufficient number of them.

QUESTION: PoK ke ilaake mein sabse zyada nuksan hua hai, khas taur par Muzaffarabad mein. Kya Pakistan ki taraf se aisa koi indication hai ki voh vahan par Bharat se madad lena chahta hai?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Nahin aisa koi indication nahin mila hai.

Thank you