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LoC cannot be opened easily: Pranab Mukherjee

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October 21, 2005 22:25 IST

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee Friday night said Pakistan's suggestion to open the Line of Control could not be done for "anybody and everybody", but places could be identified from where relief material for earthquake victims could transit freely.

"If it (Islamabad's proposal) covers those carrying relief material, they can go without obstacles. Places could be identified for them. But it (LoC) cannot be opened for anybody and everybody," he told BBC's Asia Today programme in New Delhi.

Observing it was imperative that India and Pakistan should leave the past behind and move forward, he said the massive quake could not "reverse" the process of the last 50 years, but could certainly create an atmosphere where India could provide assistance to the victims across the LoC.

"Earthquake cannot alter the history of the last 50 years and I am putting it very candidly. But it can provide an opportunity by creating an atmosphere where we can provide assistance to the victims and surely, in that condition, better understanding (between India and Pakistan) is possible," Mukherjee said.

"But if you expect the quake will reverse the process of the last 50 years, it will be too much to expect," the defence minister said.

Asked about Pakistan's insistence that Indian Air Force helicopters be given to it for relief work sans personnel, Mukherjee said, "We agreed to provide helicopters. But these can't be provided without pilots."

"I understand Pakistan does not want military personnel. But these (helicopters) are military equipment and cannot be handed over to others. These are not civilian equipment. They should also appreciate our sensitivities," the defence minister said.

Soon after the quake struck, he said he had asked the army chief to instruct all station commanders to contact their Pakistani counterparts to ascertain the type of assistance they required.

"It is not a question of trust or mistrust. It is a question of reality," he said adding, the two countries entered into a composite dialogue after recognising ground realities.

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