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Pakistan-India Aid Offer Could Help Peace, Analysts Say

The two countries had poured troops onto their border in 2002 following an attack by suspected Pakistan-backed militants on India's parliament. India blamed Pakistan for the attack, while Islamabad denied the charge.

New Delhi (AFP) Oct 10, 2005
The announcement Monday that Pakistan had accepted an offer of earthquake aid from neighbouring nuclear rival India could help the peace process between them, analysts in both countries said.

India said it would be sending 25 tonnes (tons) of badly needed supplies to Pakistan in what it said was likely the first such airlift to its longtime rival since the 1980s, as both nations grappled with Saturday's powerful quake.

Uday Bhaksar, deputy head of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, a think tank in New Delhi, called it a "symbolically important" development.

"In the past there has been a certain reluctance by Pakistan to accept assistance from India," Bhaksar said. "This will have a positive effect on the peace process and the perception of one about the other."

Pakistani authorities have warned that their death toll could reach 40,000, most of them in the Pakistani-controlled section of Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan territory that has twice led the two nations to war.

"It is a very good development in bilateral relations between the two countries," I.A. Rehman, head of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told AFP.

"In tragedies like this, when people are afflicted, rivals come to their senses. They realised they need to work together," he said.

India and Pakistan began a peace process in January 2004 that renewed cultural, sports and economic links snapped in 2002.

The two countries had poured troops onto their border in 2002 following an attack by suspected Pakistan-backed militants on India's parliament. India blamed Pakistan for the attack, while Islamabad denied the charge.

They have since been involved in peace talks including confidence-building measures to avoid an accidental nuclear war between them.

But mountainous Kashmir, often referred to as the highest battlefield in the world, remains at the heart of their dispute.

India has repeatedly accused Pakistan of not reining in Muslim militants on its soil said to be contributing to an insurgency on the Indian-controlled side that is fighting against New Delhi's rule.

"The latest development augurs well in improving relations between Pakistan and India," Pakistani political and defence analyst, retired Lieutentant General Talat Masood, told AFP.

"It shows both countries want to show goodwill whenever the opportunity arrives," he said. "As Pakistan is in distress, it is a good gesture from India. Pakistan has made similar gestures to India in the past."

Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran told reporters in New Delhi that the airlift of relief would begin on Tuesday.

"The prime minister (Manmohan Singh) has directed that a consignment should be put together on an urgent basis and delivered to Pakistan," Saran said.

He said Pakistan's ambassador to India, Aziz Ahmed Khan, had accepted India's offer after a meeting Monday evening with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"He (the Pakistani envoy) added that any assistance from India in the form of such materials would be deeply appreciated," Saran said.

"We understand that the items required include tents, blankets, mattresses, food items and a variety of medical supplies."

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Analysis: N.Korea Marks Party Birthday
Seoul (UPI) Oct 10, 2005
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