In South Asia, Natural Calamities Become Opportunities To Garner Political Support

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editors
Who’s benefitting from the floods? More than 500 people died and hundreds were displaced after South Asia was hit by heavy flooding this month.

Floods

While relief efforts are in full swing in Pakistan and Indian administered Kashmir, there are various elements – on both sides of the border – taking advantage of people’s miseries and helplessness.

Indian-administered Kashmir:

Floods

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers patrol the fenced border with Pakistan as they wade through floodwaters on the outskirts of Jammu

Although almost a week after the natural calamity struck the region, about 150,000 people were still stranded in their homes in Indian Kashmir; relief efforts by the Indian administration cannot be overlooked.

According to recent estimates, more than 82, 000 people have been rescued and over 3,000 tons of relief goods have been delivered by a 30,000 strong Indian army personnel.

However, not everyone sees it as a sincere endeavor by the Indian government.

Many claim it’s just being used as an opportunity to – as one blog aptly puts it – “whitewash decades of abuse.”

“The Indian media increasingly sounding like a khaap panchayat [rural village council] when it points out what it perceives to be an irony: that the Indian army is playing the savior in Kashmir, even though many residents view the military as an occupying force,” writes Vrinda Gopinath a leading Indian columnist for news blog Scroll.in.

“By emphasizing this needlessly, journalists are telling the Kashmiris that in light of the army’s massive rescue operations during the devastating flood, they are duty-bound to respect their alleged captors.”

There has long been resentment between India and the Kashmir Valley over religious separatism. Violent protests are often reported between Kashmiri separatists and Indian law enforcement officers that have ended up in mass casualties over the course of ten years.

In June 2012, the burning of a revered Muslim shrine in Kashmir ignited fierce rioting between Srinagar separatists and Indian police. In September 2013, a dozen were injured in clashes between anti-India protesters and government forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Helping with relief work during the floods is a harmless move toward redemption on the Indian army’s part. However, doing it “solely” for political gains is really not going to help India in the long run.

Pakistan:

FLOODS

In Pakistan, around 500, 000 people have been evacuated, 600 boats and 200 helicopters have been employed for rescue and relief measures.

While much has been done, a lot more needs to be accomplished.

Over 300 people have died in three provinces of Pakistan. More than 2.4 million people have been affected and around 1.9 million acres of crops damaged – in a country where a major part of the economy depends on farming and agricultural produce.

Here, religious extremists are using the natural calamity to their advantage.

Widely considered one of Southasia's most dangerous militants, Hafiz Saeed blamed India for the devastating floods in Pakistan.

"India irrigates its deserts and dumps extra water on Pakistan without any warning," Saeed told Reuters, as he surveyed a vast expanse of muddy water from a rescue boat just outside the central city of Multan.

"If we don't stop India now, Pakistan will continue to face this danger."

While appearing sympathetic, Saeed is in reality trying to garner support from people in areas where relief personnel has not yet been able to reach.

“His presence in the flood-hit areas is part of a push by Pakistani Islamists, militants and organizations linked to them to fill the vacuum left by struggling local authorities and turn people against a neighbor long viewed with deep mistrust,” Reuters reported.

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