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Indians Prepare To Assist Quake Survivors From Pakistan

An Indian Kashmiri boy waits for medical assitance at Uri, some 102 kms west of Srinagar, 24 October 2005. The Indian government said it had approached Pakistan with a proposal to open three relief points for victims of the 08 October earthquake along the Line of Control (LoC), the ceasefire line dividing Kashmir between Pakistan and India. AFP photo by Deshakalyan Chowhdury.

Chakan Dabagh, India (AFP) Oct 24, 2005
The Indian army is readying medical facilities, building bridges, clearing landmines and rushing supplies to its militarised frontier in expectation of a flood of stricken earthquake survivors from Pakistan, officials said Monday.

"We have set up a 100-bed tent hospital which includes a 10-bed emergency unit for those who are critically injured," Indian army brigadier A.K. Bakshi said in Chakan Dabagh, 249 kilometres (154 miles) west of Jammu, winter capital of Indian Kashmir.

Chakan Dabagh is one of three points along the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border dividing Kashmir between Pakistan and India, identified by New Delhi at the weekend as points where it plans to set up relief camps for earthquake victims.

India says survivors from the Pakistani zone can cross the LoC to the relief camps during daylight hours, be treated and gather supplies, and then cross back again.

It said the camps will be opened as soon as Pakistan gives the go-ahead, and they would be ready to operate by Tuesday.

Islamabad, for its part, has proposed five locations on the LoC where Kashmiris from both sides can cross over in either direction to assist relatives hit by the October quake that left more than 53,000 people dead and about 3.3 million homeless on the Pakistani side.

Another 1,300 people were killed on the Indian side of the frontier.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said in New Delhi late Monday that India will send officials to Pakistan for talks on setting up the camps.

"Senior officers will visit Pakistan for facilitating cooperation in earthquake relief," Sarna told a media conference, adding that the delegation will visit Islamabad before the end of the month.

Brigadier Bakshi said the tented hospital would benefit survivors of three villages across the LoC, one of the world's most militarised frontiers.

"People in a 15-kilometre (nine-mile) radius can get medical aid here," he said, scanning the villages of Tedri Nod, Rawlakot and Madarpur across the LoC.

The brigadier said his engineers had built a three-kilometre (two mile) stretch of road to connect Chakan Dabagh to the Indian garrison supply town of Poonch in southern Kashmir.

Elsewhere, Indian army engineers were installing a "flying fox" bridge across the Neelum river at Teetwal in northern Tangdhar district and soldiers were ferrying food by mule to Kaman Post in the devastated Uri district -- the two other points India has proposed as relief centres.

Engineers said they had been working non-stop since Tuesday to clear landmines from the LoC to allow the safe crossing of earthquake survivors.

Colonel Hemant Juneja, the Indian army's chief spokesman in Kashmir, said New Delhi would be flexible on the relief efforts.

"First of all, Teetwal and Kaman Post will also act as main relief supply stores with communications and all other logistics," Juneja told AFP by telephone from Srinagar, summer capital of Indian Kashmir.

"It will now depend on Pakistan to accept whether our civilian doctors go across the LoC, or let people come to our relief camps, and allow the injured to come across for treatment and then go back. These are the possibilities," the colonel said.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir. The LoC had remained closed from when it was established as a ceasefire line in 1949 until April this year when a trans-Kashmir bus services was relaunched after almost six decades.

The nuclear rivals have been engaged in a slow-moving peace process since January last year.

Despite moves to open the frontier, violence continues. The Indian army said its troops shot dead three suspected Islamic militants Sunday along the de facto border.

A 16-year-old insurgency has left more than 44,000 people dead by official count.

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India Not To Allow Unchecked Flow Of People Across Kashmir Border
New Delhi (AFP) Oct 21, 2005
Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said India will not allow the unchecked flow of people through the de facto border dividing disputed Kashmir between India and Pakistan in the wake of an earthquake that killed more than 52,000 in the region.

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