Islamabad/New Delhi, Oct. 18: Pakistan and India tonight agreed to open up the Line of Control to accelerate the relief effort, capping a race of gestures triggered by the earthquake.
President Pervez Musharraf, never shy of playing to the gallery but under pressure since the enormity of the tragedy began to sink in, called on India to allow Kashmiris to cross the de facto border.
“We will allow any amount of people coming across the LoC,” he said in Muzaffarabad, the Pakistan Kashmir capital destroyed by the quake.
“If India agrees, we would like to work out the formalities. We would like to open many other points. We will allow every Kashmiri to come across the LoC and assist in reconstruction,” he said.
“We would also like to facilitate the political leaders on both sides to go across and assist each other,” he added.
Delhi welcomed the suggestion, saying it was willing to facilitate “such movements” as it was “in line with India’s advocacy of greater movement across the LoC for relief work and closer people-to-people contacts”. India added that it was waiting for “practical details” from Pakistan to “implement this intention”.
The unprecedented proposal, though it bears the stamp of brinkmanship, could prove a pathbreaking confidence-building measure if it comes through.
However, Musharraf ruled out any cross-LoC movement by Indian troops. “This is something which has its own sensitivity and therefore, cannot be allowed.”
Survivors have accused both governments of putting politics before humanitarian help. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also apparently felt let down by what India considers lukewarm Pakistan response to offers of help.
Indian officials said it was not clear if Pakistan would allow social workers from other parts of India to go to Muzaffarabad since Musharraf used the words “every Kashmiri”.
Pakistan also decided to extend mobile telephone services to people living in areas close to both sides of the LoC.
India matched that, saying it would allow Kashmiris to make free telephone calls to relatives in Pakistan Kashmir. Four special telephone centres will remain open for two weeks in Indian Kashmir. Till now, calls from Indian Kashmir to the other side had to be booked in advance.