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US offers quake aid, India declines

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC
October 11, 2005 11:34 IST
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The Bush Administration has lauded India for its assistance to Pakistan at a time when it too has been severely affected by the killer earthquake that has devastated several areas in Pakistan and Jammu & Kashmir in India.

In a telephone call to Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld conveyed the US government's condolences over the loss of lives and property in Jammu & Kashmir and inquired if India needed any assistance from the United States.

Mukherjee, according to an Indian embassy statement released in Washington, said that while India was touched by the US offer of support and assistance, 'everything is under control in India and we are carrying out relief operations mustering all resources within the country.'

He had also informed Rumsfeld that India had already offered assistance to Pakistan and that a planeload of relief supplies including blankets, tents and medicines would be reaching Pakistan on Tuesday.

Rumsfeld had expressed his appreciation for the support provided by India to Pakistan 'at this hour,' and reiterated the US government's offer that if India needed any assistance, he would instruct US Ambassador in New Delhi David Mulford to make the necessary arrangements and coordinate such assistance with New Delhi.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh and also her Pakistani counterpart to offer her 'deepest condolences to all those affected by today's earthquake centered in northern Pakistan,' and noted that the 'devastation in northern Pakistan and on both sides of the Line of Control in Kashmir is a terrible tragedy for the people of the region.'

She too had offered assistance to both Pakistan and India and declared that 'at this difficult time, the United States stands with its friends in Pakistan and India, just as they stood with us and offered assistance after Hurricane Katrina.'

Immediately after the earthquake struck and the devastation became clear, Mohammad Sadiq, the Pakistani Charge D'Affaires in Washington, went to the White House to brief President George W Bush who pledged US assistance to Pakistan and called President Pervez Musharraf to express America's 'deepest condolences.'

Bush said, with Sadiq seated by his side in the Oval Office, that he had informed Musharraf that "we want to help in any way we can," and noted that "to that end, we've already started to send cash money and other equipment and goods that us going to be needed to help the people in Pakistan."

He also said that "Secretary Rumsfeld is surveying the assets that he may be able to move in the area. We're working with Pakistan at all levels of government. Pakistan is a friend of the United States government and the people of the United States will help as best we possibly can."

Bush said he had told Musharraf that "there are a lot of Americans who will be asking for the Almighty God's blessings on the people of Pakistan."

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC