No help offered, expected from India on floods: FM Bilawal

Published September 22, 2022
<p>Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speaks in an interview in New York, US, Wednesday. — France 24 screengrab</p>

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speaks in an interview in New York, US, Wednesday. — France 24 screengrab

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Wednesday said that Pakistan had received no assistance from India in wake of the devastating floods that wreaked havoc in the country.

In an interview with France 24 in New York, Bilawal was asked if the neighbouring country had offered any help and whether Pakistan asked for any. He replied in the negative to both the queries.

On the current state of relations with India, he said: “We have a long and complicated history … unfortunately the India today is a changed India and is no longer the secular India promised by its founding fathers for all its citizens.

“It is increasingly becoming a Hindu-supremacist India at the expense of its Christian and Muslim minorities … not only within India but unfortunately in the disputed region of Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.”

Referring to the August 2019 revocation of Indian-occupied Kashmir’s special status, Bilawal said India had taken certain steps and actions which had made “engagement with India untenable for us”.

He said the undermining UN and UN Security Council resolutions, changing the boundaries of the disputed territory and attempting demographic change “creates very little space for us to engage”.

“It is absolutely a racist, fascist and Islamophobic policy. It has caused a reaction not only within Kashmir but all across India.”

FM Bilawal said India’s Muslim minority — the largest minority on the planet — was feeling persecuted and insecure. “This is how the government of India is treating its own Muslim citizens. You can only imagine how they are treating the Muslims of Pakistan and Kashmir,” he added.

Bilawal did add, however, that the younger generation of both countries “wants to see two neighbours living in peace side by side”.

Flood situation

Meanwhile, regarding the flooding situation in the country, Bilawal said Pakistan was still in an active disaster. “The scale of the tragedy in Pakistan is of truly apocalyptic and biblical proportions. According to the Bible, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights,” he said, referring to the story of Prophet Nuh.

“This monster monsoon that Pakistan experienced started in mid-June and ended at the end of August,” he said, adding that a “100-kilometre lake” was left when the rains finally stopped.

Bilawal lamented that the “irony” was Pakistan’s carbon output was minuscule and yet, was one of the 10 most climate-stressed countries.

He said Pakistan was seeing multiple challenges in the future such as a health catastrophe, disease epidemic, crop shortage, livestock loss, food security and more.

Bilawal said all estimates formed with the International Monetary Fund about economic stability were “washed away”.

On the question of international aid and assistance, FM Bilawal said that while Pakistan was grateful for the assistance, the country did not “want to beg or wants aid — we want justice”. He added it was a global catastrophe as a result of global action and thus needed a global solution.

He said more accurate damage needs assessment was needed once the waters receded but presently, the “guesstimate” was close to $30 billion in economic loss.

“Every crisis creates an opportunity and in this crisis, the opportunity is that we must build back in a more resilient and greener way.”

Afghanistan and Iran

On Afghanistan and its continued clampdown on girls’ education, Bilawal said Pakistan had still not officially recognised the Afghan government.

He said it would be in the Afghan government’s favour to fulfil its promises to the international community and its nation to gain legitimacy and a path to international recognition.

Bilawal said that while some female education was being offered, secondary education was still awaited.

He said that overall, “we are not quite there as far as recognition is concerned”, adding that the global community wanted to see Afghanistan function as a modern state and ensure that its soil was not used for terrorism, females had access to education and a more inclusive government.

On the UN report regarding the alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang against Muslim Uighurs, Bilawal said: “We have to be fair and unbiased in our approach. We can’t pick and choose in such situations,” adding that the Foreign Office had released its response and welcomed China’s desire to engage with the world on the issue.

On the recent protests in Iran over a young woman’s death allegedly because of the morality police, FM Bilawal said he had seen the Iranian foreign minister’s response on the issue and said he trusted the neighbour to “keep to their word” for an incident inquiry despite “living in extremely difficult circumstances”.

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