October 10, 2005

Earthquake Diplomacy. Dubious?

"We have nothing at present with us. Only our people are trying to dig out the children who are buried and are probably dead - probably dead." It's hard to overstate how horrible this earthquake in Kashmir is, with a death toll that could reach 30-40 times that of Katrina. Maybe it's too soon for this anything other than aid and relief, but the London Telegraph is trying to find the silver geo-political lining, although in a fairly morbid way:
Training camps used by jihadists battling with the Indian army for control of Kashmir were buried by landslides or left in ruins by the earthquake, bringing hope of a new opportunity for peace-making after a 16-year Islamic insurgency...

Security analysts said yesterday that the earthquake in Pakistan's highly-militarised Kashmir region had "significantly depreciated'' the insurgents' capacity to carry on their fight for independence in neighbouring Indian-administered Kashmir.

"The militant groups and their army handlers will now be totally absorbed in relief, rescue and rehabilitation efforts," said Arun Sahgal, of the United Service Institution in New Delhi.
Yeah, I wonder how much of that is wishful thinking on the part of an Indian security analyst. Still, a "new opportunity for peacemaking" is possible. Greece and Turkey renewed ties in 1999 after both countries were hit by earthquakes—and this only three years after they nearly went to war over some patch of islands or other. Indonesians looked far more favorably on the United States after the latter brought in troops and supplies to deal with the post-tsunami devastation on Aceh last year. (And, in turn, less favorably on Osama bin Laden and his ilk.) On the other hand, reformist papers in Iran had hoped that the American response to the earthquake in Bam two years ago would eventually lead to a new U.S.-Iran detente, but that didn't go anywhere. One would expect here that America's image among Pakistanis might improve post-relief, but the India-Pakistan relationship likely won't change much. Much more urgently, though, one hopes that instability in the region doesn't impede the relief efforts.

ALSO: Kind of frivolous, but I've always wondered how those search dogs they use in earthquakes actually operate, so here's a quick description from a company that seems to breed the dogs:
"All humans, alive or dead, constantly emit microscopic particles bearing human scent. Millions of these are airborne and are carried by the wind for considerable distances. The air scenting SAR dog is trained to locate the scent of any human in a specific search area. The dog is not restricted to the missing person's track and can search long after the track is obliterated."
Okay, so they don't do quite the same thing as dogs that hunt down escaped convicts in, say, Cool Hand Luke, although the page also says that some dogs can do both tasks.
-- Brad Plumer 1:18 PM || ||