Angelina Jolie has traveled to Pakistan in her role as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, donated $100,000 for flood victim relief and issued the public service annoucement above.
I strongly support what she and others like Richard Holbrooke, George Soros, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are doing in trying to raise the profile of this crisis. But even with Clinton and Holbrooke on board, the U.S. government is still not doing as much as it should in terms of contributing at a systemic level to helping the Pakistanis and Indians turn this nightmare into a strategically significant trust-building event.
David Rothkopf has written a compelling call for bolder initiatives related to the Indus River Valley and how to use this as both a way to provide vital relief and to change the toxic political dynamics in the region.
In particular, Rothkopf anticipating President Obama’s coming trip to India writes:
The U.S. and the international community have responded generously in the wake of the Pakistan flood crisis. America’s $7.5 billion aid effort* is a step in the right direction. But it is only a tiny fraction of the several tens of billions that are needed to better manage and preserve the water resources in this fragile, vital region. Further, it is clear that money alone will not solve the problem. Existing treaty relationships between India and Pakistan on the use of the water from the Indus are being strained to breaking by dam projects and shifting demand.
Perhaps this is one of those moments where it might be possible to harness the awareness raised by the current disaster and the sensitivities heightened by rising tensions to produce a different kind of response, one that if managed properly could also produce much larger benefits.
Few relationships on the planet are as important or as potentially dangerous as that between India and Pakistan. Further, as we have seen in Afghanistan or in the recent Mumbai terror attacks, it is a relationship with growing ramifications and multiplying risks. Seeking to stabilize it — daunting a prospect as that seems given its history — must be a top foreign policy priority for all the world’s powers.
Further, for the United States, for whom both countries are increasingly important to a host of our international interests, playing an active role in resolving this distant and growing resource crisis is not only in our direct national interest, it could be a model for helping to address a proliferating set of similar challenges that seem likely in the very near future.
*TWN notes that only $50 million of this five year, $7.5 billion total package of US aid has been authorized for flood relief.
The U.S. response needs to be more pivotal and robust. This crisis will be remembered for generations by Pakistanis — and the long term positives that could emanate from a robust, humanitarian response combined with an international TVA-like commitment to managing this watershed could neutralize the current high-fear, tense regional dynamic.
Recently when I ran into Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, he mentioned the texting “donate option” to Pakistan flood victims through the UNHCR which Angelina Jolie mentions above, but it is:
Text “SWAT” to 50555 to donate $10 to UNHCR for urgent flood relief in Pakistan
— Steve Clemons