In a far reaching move, President Pervez Musharraf Tuesday said Pakistan is ready to throw open the Line of Control to allow "any amount" of people to come from the Indian side of Kashmir to help in earthquake relief efforts, a step India promptly welcomed.
"We will allow any amount of people coming across the LoC to meet their relatives and assist with the reconstruction efforts," Musharraf said in a televised press conference in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, worst hit in the October 8 killer earthquake.
Urging India to agree to the proposal, he said political leaders of both sides should interact to "assist each other with reconstruction efforts".
Reacting to Musharraf's offer, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said in New Delhi, "We have
seen news reports. If indeed this is what has been said, India welcomes the remarks. It is in line with India's advocacy of greater movement across the LoC."
India, he said, was willing to facilitate the movement. "But we wait for word from Pakistan about the practical dimension of implementing this intention."
Sarna said India has always been in favour of greater people-to-people contact. He recalled that before the quake, India had made several confidence building measures like opening up of five points along the LoC to enable divided families on both sides to meet.
Stating that no formal proposal has been made to New Delhi, Musharraf remarked, "It is being put across through you (media)."
Musharraf said modalities for implementing his proposal had to worked out.
"This has to be formalised. We would like to open up many points than this one route of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and
formalise how they will come across. But we will allow every Kashmiri to come across the LoC to assist in the reconstruction efforts," he said.
Musharraf said for the first time PoK would permit mobile operators to open linkages across the LoC to let Kashmir's divided families talk to one another.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said seperately that mobile telephone service would be extended to Kashmiris living near the LoC.
Acting on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's directive, the government Tuesday night announced that the Department of Telecommunication would set up four telecom felicitation centres in Jammu and Kashmir to enable divided families across the LoC to contact their kin.
The centres at Srinagar, Jammu, Uri and Tangdhar are expected to be operational from Wednesday.