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Chinese helicopters aid Pak flood victims

China has dispatched four military helicopters to Pakistan to assist with the country’s flood relief. It is the first time Chinese military helicopters have been sent overseas to perform such duties. The four military helicopters, belonging to Xinjiang military area command, took off from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on September 21, as approved by the Central Military Commission of China. The four helicopters were previously engaged in transportation and search and rescue operations in the wake of several major natural disasters in China, including the catastrophic Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008, and Zhouqu mudslide earlier this year. The most devastating floods in a century struck Pakistan in July and China has been Pakistan’s major benefactor, coming immediately to aid its afflicted neighbour. Aside from personnel, the four Chinese military helicopters are transporting the much needed relief goods.

The Chinese helicopter team’s first relief mission was conducted in the province of Sindh that is currently in the flooding zone. The Chinese helicopter relief team commenced their first operation overseas on September 25, taking off from Hyderabad, and plunged wholeheartedly in the mercy mission in flood-hit areas. Three helicopters, carrying the 4.8 tons of rice, flour, water and other necessities arrived at Johi 160 km away from Hyderabad, and hovered drop the supplies to the various settlements. After 7 hours and 45 minutes of flight, it successfully accomplished its first mission and returned to Hyderabad. On September 26, two Chinese helicopters delivered two tons of flour, mineral water and other living materials to the temporary shelters in Dadu, and Johi area respectively.

It is important to note that Pakistan’s all weather friend China has always stood by it in its hour of need. In the current crises of Pakistan’s worst ever floods, Chinese support has been along two epoch making tracks. The first is the value of the assistance, which has already reached US $ 250 million. This includes a sum of US $ 200 million pledged by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, in his address to the UN General Assembly in New York on September 22. According to Chinese officials, this is the largest humanitarian relief commitment overseas ever made by China. The second is the deployment of humanitarian relief teams by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for assisting the Pakistani army in its aid efforts. According to Chinese officials, this is the first time that the PLA’s specially-trained disaster relief teams have been deployed abroad in large numbers. The PLA has deployed three teams——two in Sindh and one in Gilgit-Baltistan. Mr. Huang Xilian, Deputy Chief of the Chinese mission in Islamabad, told a media briefing in Islamabad on September 23 as follows: “It is for the first time in history that China has sent so many rescue and medical teams across its borders. The Chinese government sent a 55-member international search and rescue team, including 36 doctors and 19 technical support personnel, to the worst-hit region of Thatta in Sindh province late last month (August), which was the first international team to reach flood-hit areas of Thatta region. They brought with them 25 tons of high-tech medical equipment and medicine worth RMB 8 million. The second medical team of PLA, comprising 68 members along with relief goods including medicines weighing 80 tonnes, came to Pakistan and were deployed around the Sehwan area of Sindh province. Twenty members of this team are female, providing medical care to women and children. This is a record high in the history of PLA’s foreign medical aid. The fact that China has sent some 200 doctors and paramedics in three medical rescue teams by now is a record high in China ‘s foreign medical rescue history.” The third disaster relief team has been deployed in the Hunza area of Gilgit-Baltistan since January when large areas were flooded following a burst of a large artificial lake created by a huge landslide. The presence of Chinese military helicopters is a value added support. The Chinese have mentioned the total PLA disaster relief personnel deputed to Sindh as about 200. The Chinese engineering teams engaged in the repair of the badly damaged Karakoram highway to restore the communication infrastructure are over and above the Chinese relief teams assisting Pakistan. The Chinese have been emphasizing that the assistance given by them till now is in the way of emergency relief and that they will be giving separate assistance later for the reconstruction of the damaged economy. Despite the damages suffered by the Karakoram Highway due to the landslide of January and the floods of August, the Chinese engineers from the PLA have managed to keep the traffic moving. While the initial assistance in the beginning of August was airlifted to Islamabad from Chinese-controlled Xinjiang, the subsequent assistance has been coming by road along the Karakoram Highway. 101 Chinese trucks reached the Sust Dry Port via the Khunjerab Pass on Sept. 1, carrying flour and cooking oil. In fact, since the landslide and floods of January, the people living in the Hunza area are being kept largely sustained by the PLA in the Chinese-controlled Xinjiang region since the Pakistan Army is not able to reach them.

This special gesture from the people and the government of China will go a long way in bonding the already solid ties that exist between the people of China and Pakistan. In these turbulent times, it is imperative that both countries hold up each other and support because their views on the security of the region converge, they have common aspirations and face common threats. The law of the jungle dictates that only the fittest survive. It is imperative that by joining forces, the two brotherly nations join forces and ensure their survivability.

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