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Indian Troopers Cross Kashmir Border To Offer Help

Pakistani army soldiers unload relief goods from an Indian plane specially bound for Pakistan, in Rawalpindi 12 October 2005. The Indian Air Force Ilyushin-76 loaded with seven trucks full of army medecines, 15,000 blankets and 50 tents has arrived early at Chaklala Air Base in Rawalpindi. Pakistan battled to get food and shelter to millions of earthquake victims left exposed to brutal conditions from the worst natural disaster in the nation's history. AFP photo by Asif Hassan.

Srinagar, India (AFP) Oct 12, 2005
Indian soldiers Wednesday crossed the de facto border dividing the Indian and Pakistani zones of disputed Kashmir to rebuild a quake-destroyed bunker, an Indian army spokesman said.

"It is unprecedented in the manner that our soldiers have gone across the border to extend help," Lieutenant Colonel K. Seghal told AFP in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir.

The soldiers crossed a bridge that spans the Line of Control, the 770-kilometre (477-mile) de facto border that divides the two zones of the Himalayan territory, Seghal said.

"A few soldiers from the Pakistani side shouted for help to our boys to clear the debris and in adverse weather conditions our soldiers went across to re-do their flattened bunkers so that they could sleep at night," he said.

The Indian and Pakistani zones of Kashmir suffered enormous damage from Saturday's 7.6-magnitude earthquake.

More than 1,300 people were killed and 5,000 others injured in Indian Kashmir, where Saturday's quake flattened more than 40,000 homes and partially destroyed twice that number.

In Pakistan, at least 23,000 people were killed.

"If they (the Pakistani soldiers) want our help and if we want their help it is no problem," said an Indian army commander as helicopters from the two sides crisscrossed the usually heavily militarised Line of Control -- something that would usually involve being shot down.

Kashmir has been the subject of two of the three wars fought by the South Asian nuclear-armed rivals since their independence from Britain in 1947.

The Amity Bridge, 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Srinagar, was reopened in April for the resumption of a trans-border bus service between the two zones.

But the quake seems to have caused a further thaw in ties, which have been on the mend since January 2004.

An Indian cargo plane delivered relief supplies for earthquake victims in Pakistan Wednesday, the first such airlift between the neighbours in decades.

The llyushin-76 flew seven truck loads of army medicines, 15,000 blankets and 50 tents to Pakistan and returned to New Delhi.

The 26 tonnes of aid was seen as adding new impetus to peace efforts.

A senior Indian airforce official S. C. Mukul said the military had been "asked by the government to be ready to fly out another consignment."

Mukul's comment came a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India was willing to send Pakistan whatever aid it needs.

"We are willing to supply to Pakistan whatever is on their priority list," Singh said Tuesday in Indian Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar, while on a day's visit to the region.

Analysts said that along with a peace process in place since January 2004, moves like these were proof that the two nations could put aside the past.

"Now the people will physically see with their own eyes that in the time of calamity, the governments are coming together and the people are coming together," said S.D. Muni, a professor at the center for regional studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in the Indian capital New Delhi.

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