Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flew into the quake-hit regions in north Kashmir on Tuesday morning and announced an additional assistance of Rs 500 crore to Jammu and Kashmir.
"This will be considered a national calamity," the prime minister said, adding that "money will not be a constraint" in meeting all legitimate needs of the affected people. "We will put the best foot forward to meet the needs of all the affected people, particularly the orphans, widows and senior citizens," the prime minister said.
The prime minister said that he had had a telephonic conversation with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and had later met Pakistan High Commissioner Aziz Ahmad Khan. The requirements for quake relief underlined in these meetings must have reached Pakistan by now, he said.
Describing the situation as a "rare occurrence", he said the two countries were working together in "this hour of sorrow and grief". Responding to a point that the Rs 500 crore package was inadequate to deal with massive destruction, Singh said "this is not the final figure. This sum I announced on the spot after visiting some of the affected areas...Centre stands committed to help the state."
Singh made the announcement after an on-the-spot assessment of the damage caused by the 7.6 killer quake on Saturday that has claimed nearly 950 people so far. About joint relief operations, he said the army chief and director general of military intelligence have made such an offer to Pakistan. "It depends on Pakistan's sensitivities. We have to respect them. If they agree to this, there will be positive response from our side," he said.
The Union government had earlier announced an ad hoc Rs 100 crore aid to the state, while the Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said another Rs 42 crore would be given from the Natural Calamity fund for the rehabilitation work.
Singh said his government was keen to do everything to alleviate the problems of the affected people, not only on this side of Jammu and Kashmir but also across the Line of Control.
Tangdhar in Kupwara district close to the Line of Control along with Uri region in Baramulla district is among the worst-affected areas as they are in proximity to the epicentre of the quake in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.