TUZLA, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Pakistani soldiers returned after a 23-year-long period to the metropolis, which greatly admires their humanitarian services to its inhabitants, particularly the Yugoslavian war refugees.
At the time of war, Pakistan had sent two battalions from the Punjab regiment to Tuzla under the banner of the United Nations to help strengthen peacekeeping efforts.
This time, however, Tuzla is the same as it was back then but the situation and environment have changed drastically.
A medical team of the Pakistan Army joined those from 34 other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations to learn and share experiences from the humanitarian response to natural disasters — such as floods and earthquakes — and their aftermath.
The goal is to exercise civil defence during a flood situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina for five days.
The relationship between Pakistan and NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) dates back to 2005 when the former experienced an earthquake in Jammu & Kashmir with the intergovernmental military alliance supporting and managing the subsequent relief efforts.
The coordination led to a greater cooperation between the countries and Pakistan was invited to Bosnia and Herzegovina to learn and share its experience with other member nations.
The exercise was inaugurated by Sorin Ducaru — the Assistant Secretary-General for Emergency Security Challenges at NATO — and Bosnia and Herzegovina Security Minister Dragan Mektic.
It shall offer an opportunity to 34 countries and “around 1200 participants” to learn international, multicultural cooperation and best practices when facing natural disasters.
In this regard, it “will help improve international cooperation in countries ranging from Spain to Serbia, from Bulgaria to Belarus, and from Croatia to Pakistan”, Ducaru said according to an update on NATO’s website.
“It will give responders the opportunity to test state-of-the-art technologies in relief operations,” he added.
The exercise shall additionally provide a chance to become familiar with new technologies in the field of disaster relief and management, as well as rapid response and organisation in dealing with calamities.
This is the 17th international field exercise organised by the EADRCC and the first one hosted by Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Talking to Geo.tv here, EADRCC coordinator Claudiu Zoicas — who also holds the position of liaison to the Pakistani forces — explained that participants from the NATO and partner countries will undergo and understand international cooperation in disaster response, including water rescue, chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) detection, protection, and decontamination.
Projects that are supported by the NATO Science for Peace (SPS) Programme will also be tested and employed during the course of the exercise.
These projects, according to the website, comprise an emergency response-related capacity building project in the Western Balkans, the “Next-Generation Incident Command System,” and a telemedicine system to boost medical support in disaster-stricken areas by remotely engaging medical experts from member countries.
Several international organisations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — such as the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), European Union (EU), London-based Save the Children, and the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina — will also partake in the exercise.
Farooqi, Khalid. Pakistan joins NATO-led disaster & relief exercise in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Geo News, September 28, 2017.