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India, Pak agree to open five points on LoC

By K J M Varma in Islamabad
October 30, 2005 13:36 IST
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India and Pakistan agreed on Saturday night, after hectic 12-hour parleys, to open five centres on the Line of Control, to provide relief and medical assistance to quake victims from both sides of Kashmir.

The two sides agreed to open crossings at Nauseri-Tithwal, Chakoti-Uri, Hajipur-Uri, Rawalakot-Poonch and Tattapani-Mendhar to allow quake-affected people of Kashmir, especially from divided families, to meet each other

A Joint Statement issued in Islamabad at the end of the talks late on Saturday night said that Pakistan had expressed its appreciation for the assistance provided by India for the earthquake victims.

'It was agreed that because of non-availability of or damage to infrastructure on these points, crossings across the LoC would be permitted on foot. The parameters and procedures as already agreed upon between the two sides being used for the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service would be used for the above additional crossings and both will endeavour to expedite the clearance process preferably within 10 days', the statement said.

It was further agreed that priority for crossings would be accorded to members of divided families on either side of LoC.

'For relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction purposes, it was agreed that with prior information and acceptance and depending on feasibility, relief items can be sent in either direction and handed over to local authorities on the aforementioned crossing points', the statement said.

The two sides agree to operationalise the arrangements on November 7, as a humanitarian measure.

Talks began around 1030 hrs IST Saturday morning at the Pakistan Foreign Office between a six-member Indian delegation headed by Dilip Sinha, Joint Secretary of the Indian External Affairs Ministry and the Pakistan official team led by Ibne Abbas, the Director General of South Asia Division in Pakistan Foreign Office and went on till 0100 hrs.

Earlier, the talks hit a roadblock as the meeting was adjourned for Pakistan to obtain clearance to certain Indian proposals. The two sides met again at 2300 hrs and continued the talks till late in the night. There was speculation that talks were bogged down due to the situation created by the serial bomb blasts in New Delhi, which officials later denied.

Early this year the two countries have reached an agreement to run the Srinagar-Muzafarabad bus service, which was suspended after landslides triggered by the October 8 quake disrupted the route.

Complete coverage: Tremors across borders

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K J M Varma in Islamabad
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