Kashmir Hostilities Temporarily Halted To Deal With Worst Floods In 50 Years
8 September 2014
: Troops and civilian officials in both India and Pakistan were making frantic efforts on Monday to reach thousands of people stranded by flooding and landslides that have so far caused more than 320 deaths. They included 500 people stranded on an Indian train. Nearly a week of rain on the Indian side of the de facto border that divides the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir has left more than 120 people dead. In the worst flooding in more than five decades, hundreds of villages have been submerged, officials said. In neighbouring Pakistan, more than 200 people have died and thousands of homes have collapsed. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced. The disaster has prompted a slight thawing in chilly relations between India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since gaining their independence from Britain in 1947. In recent days the leaders of both states have offered to help each other in relief efforts, despite months of angry rhetoric and intermittent military clashes along the de facto border, known as the Line of Control, which splits Kashmir between the rival nations. Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, has sent a letter to his counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, offering India's help in relief efforts to the Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir. Pakistan's foreign ministry reciprocated, saying the government was 'ready to help in whatever way possible to mitigate the suffering of the people affected by the floods' in Indian-controlled portions of Kashmir. It is unlikely either side will accept the other's offer of help, given the military sensitivities in the region, where hundreds of thousands of troops have faced off for decades. When he took office in May, Modi, a Hindu nationalist, invited Sharif to Delhi in an unprecedented gesture that raised hopes of progress towards stronger ties. However relations have deteriorated again since, with Sharif hemmed in by a hawkish military and Modi facing strong public anger within India at what is seen as Pakistani aggression. Sharif last week sent 15 boxes of mangoes to Modi. 'They were delivered to the prime minister's office on Wednesday last week,' said a spokesman for the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi. 'He must have eaten some of them by now.' More flooding is forecast in coming days. In Islamabad, Ahmad Kamal, Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority spokesman, said authorities were preparing for worsening conditions as the waters of the Chenab and Indus rivers were rising. Indian disaster management officials said blankets, medicine and food were being supplied to people stranded on rooftops as most parts of Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir, were submerged. All schools, colleges and offices have been shut, and electricity and drinking water supplies have been limited. Omar Abdullah, chief minister of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, said the floods were the worst to hit Kashmir in decades. Both Modi and Sharif flew over their respective areas of Kashmir on Sunday to review the extent of the flooding. Modi, from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party, promised an additional 10bn rupees (nearly Â£100m) of national funds for those hit by the floods.