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India to treat Pakistanis at LoC relief camps
Sheela Bhatt and Onkar Singh in New Delhi | October 24, 2005 15:24 IST
India has taken a pro-active and unilateral decision to rise above the politics of relief and rehabilitation in the quake-hit region along the Line of Control, when it announced that it would open three composite relief camps to help the people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Navtej Sarna, spokesman of Ministry of External Affairs said on Monday that three medical and relief centers will be opened at Kaman in Uri, Titwal in Kupwara and Chakantabagh near Poonj sector.
In view of the international criticism over the diplomatic tussle between India and Pakistan over relief work for Kashmiris on both sides of the border, India is now trying to put its record straight.
Omar Abdullah, former minister of State for External Affairs said, "This is a humanitarian gesture. We would like to see that points along the LoC, which have been opened by the government, should be made permanent. We would like the Jammu-Sialkot, Poonch-Rawalkot-Rajauri and Kargil- Skardu routes also to be opened up."
Abdullah belives, "Though the government claims this is a unilateral decision, it has been pressurised by circumstances, in view of President Musharraf's statement that he would like the LoC to be opened up during this crisis."
President Musharraf has asked for softening of the LoC stand but India termed it as a 'general comment' and waited for specifics and practical suggestions.
Meanwhile, India has moved forward to help PoK-based Kashmiris in a practical and concrete manner.
Sarna announced, "The government has decided to set up composite relief and rehabilitation centers for earthquake- affected people. People from across the border can also come there during the day for treatment and return thereafter. At these points, Indian nationals will also be able to meet their relatives."
Sarna said that drinking water, medical facilities and temporary shelters will be provided in these camps.
By any account India's announcement is pathbreaking.
Mehbooba Mufti, President of People's Democratic Party, said, "It's a great move."
Muzzaffar Shah, senior leader of Jammu and Kashmir Awami National Conference, described the government's decision as 'excellent'.
He said, "The government should make maximum use of this opportunity to provide medical relief to the maximum number of Pakistan earthquake victims."
These medical camps, which may become 'refuge shelters of the quake victims of PoK within the Indian territory' are expected to be operational on October 25.
Sarna said that India has conveyed this decision to Pakistan High Commissioner and 'we will wait for the response from Pakistan'.
"The issue is that a lot of people are affected and they are in need of assistance. This is a proposal by India to alleviate their pain," he added.
PoK-based Kashmiris can enter the Indian side with the help of 'proper documents', said the MEA. If a person from PoK is not cured in a few hours, they can stay back on the Indian side of Kashmir.
When asked if only Kashmris will be allowed in these camps, Sarna said, 'those who are affected by the earthquake will be allowed'.
According to the MEA, the Indian government has, so far, sent 22 tons of medicines, 16550 blankets, 100 tons biscuits 620 tents and rice and pulses.
In addition to these, private parties have sent 60 tons of medicines, 88000 blankets, 22000 tents and more than 35000 quilts and plastic sheets to Pakistan.