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Analysis: India Treads Softly In Pakistan

India has so far supplied nearly 90 tons of medicine, 100,000 blankets, over 20,000 tents, 30 tons of plastic sheets and 100 tons of biscuits to Pakistan from its various domestic sources.

New Delhi, India (UPI) Oct 25, 2005
India has had to tread gingerly in dealing with Pakistan keeping in view the sensitivities of its western neighbor, said Indian analysts Tuesday.

"While extending quake relief measures to Pakistan, India has to do it in a manner that it would not hurt the what Pakistan called its sentiments on Kashmir," said Yashwant Deshmukh, a senior political analyst.

He said New Delhi is finding it difficult to strike a balance in fulfilling its humanitarian obligation to provide succor to victims of a devastating earthquake that hit Pakistan held Kashmir on Oct. 8 and in honoring Islamabad's sensitivities involving Kashmir.

Deshmukh said in a bid to cover up his rejection to allow Indian helicopters to fly over disputed territory of Pakistani side of Kashmir with relief and rehabilitation materials, the Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf suggested to open up Line of Control at five points to facilitate free movement of Kashmiri people.

India had accepted Musharraf's proposal to open up the border allowing people to move on either side of it and to provide relief to quake victims. India had said it would open only three points at the LoC not the five as suggested by Musharraf and added that people moving across the control line would be registered in the quake hit areas.

Three months back the same proposal was mooted by Pakistan not for the relief work, but for promoting people to people contact. India said these points would be used to provide relief to individuals as well as to stock relief materials that may be required by the Pakistani authorities.

"The visitors may be permitted to stay overnight if needed," said a spokesman for Indian Director General Military Operations.

"It was not an easy decision for India to open up the LoC as Jammu and Kashmir is the main target of terror violence. There were apprehensions of militants sneaking over to the Indian side.... Still, India went ahead and opened three points on the border," said an Indian Defense Ministry official.

More than 50,000 people died in the Oct. 8 earthquake. Several thousands were rendered homeless. Many villages in the rugged Himalayan terrain were wiped out. India also suffered casualties of over 1,400 people in the border districts of Uri, Rajouri, Poonch and Tangdhar.

The international community, including India, responded to help Pakistan in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of affected people. India has so far supplied nearly 90 tons of medicine, 100,000 blankets, over 20,000 tents, 30 tons of plastic sheets and 100 tons of biscuits to Pakistan from its various domestic sources.

To further the assistance, India suggested Pakistan to allow Indian helicopters to land in its side of Kashmir for rescue work as Islamabad ran short of choppers. President Musharraf had himself admitted that Pakistan has a shortage of helicopters.

He however, turned down Indian offer saying it involves Pakistan's sensitivities over Kashmir. Instead, Musharraf proposed India to send its helicopters but without pilots.

"This is not a practical idea and is not acceptable," Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee said while responding to Pakistan's new proposal. With controversy surrounding the helicopter proposal, the idea could not take off and was subsequently abandoned.

"Allowing Indian pilots to fly over Pakistan occupied Kashmir meant Islamabad forgoing its claim over its side of Kashmir, which the country describes as "independent Kashmir", said another analyst.

He said Pakistan had build up its case on Kashmir over the years on the ground that people of either side of the divide do not wish to continue to be a part of India. Pakistan has repeatedly said that India has illegally held the major part of Kashmir. A charge, India denies.

Despite refusing Indian air assistance, Pakistani leaders deeply appreciated India's gesture to provide relief to quake victims. There are reports pouring in from Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-held Kashmir that militants are running relief camps and providing medical facilities to the victims in far-flung areas to garner popular support.

"The Pakistani administration should take serious note of these reports and after verifying them, it should take strong action and take over all such camps," said another analyst Rajeev Sharma at The Tribune.

He said this is also demonstrates the inability of Pakistani authorities to control the militants so that good feeling aroused by a shared tragedy is not hampered.

"It was this good feeling that encouraged some well wishers to suggest opening up of the entire LoC," Sharma said.

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