New York/Washington: After dithering for a week, Pakistan on Friday accepted India's offer of USD five million in aid for flood relief in the country and appreciated its "very positive" gesture.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is in New York to attend a special meeting of the United Nations on flood situation in his country, stated this a day after the US said politics should have no role in disaster response and expected Islamabad to accept the Indian aid offer.
While pushing for more international aid for relief and rehabilitation efforts, Pakistan has been dilly-dallying on accepting the aid offered by India last Friday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani yesterday and offered more assistance in handling flood relief.
"I can share with you that the Government of Pakistan has agreed to accept the Indian offer (of USD 5 million aid)," Qureshi said in New York.
"We are not playing politics. Let me acknowledge the fact that the Minister for External Affairs, (S M) Krishna, called me in Islamabad and he expressed sympathy, he condoled with me on the loss of life, and offered assistance to Pakistan," he said.
Qureshi thanked Manmohan Singh, his government and Krishna for this "very positive" gesture of extending aid and said it was highly appreciated by Pakistan.
The Pakistan Foreign Minister also said he was looking forward to talks with Krishna to improve the environment, build confidence and to bridge the trust deficit between the two countries.
Three weeks of unusually heavy monsoon rains triggered flash floods in Khyber-Paktunkhwa, Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh provinces of Pakistan, affecting 20 million people.
Over 1,700 people have died and the UN says more than 650,000 people are without basic shelter while six million desperately need emergency aid. Tens of thousands of villages are still under water.
When asked about reports that Islamic extremist groups might take advantage of this opportunity to win over hearts and minds, Qureshi said this will not happen.
"I think what we saw today and the UN will not permit them to take advantage of the situation. "I think the international community is now forthcoming and the international community is responding and they are responding quickly, and we will not allow them (extremist groups) to exploit that situation," Qureshi said.
Meanwhile, the US has said it will not tolerate corruption in distribution of aid and flood relief work in the flood-hit country.
"We will not tolerate corruption. The assistance that we are providing is for the people of Pakistan. We want to see this assistance get directly to the people of Pakistan," State Department spokesman P J Crowley said amidst concerns being expressed in the US media about the high level corruption in aid distribution in Pakistan. PTI