M A I N   N E W S

Pak nod to IAF relief plane, Kasuri thanks Natwar
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 11
Pakistan today gave clearance for landing of an Indian Air Force plane which is to carry 25 tonnes of earthquake relief material like tents, plastic sheets, blankets, mattresses, food items and medicines.

The Ministry of External Affairs got the green signal from Pakistan this evening. By the time the Pakistani clearance came, the IL-76 aircraft had already been loaded. Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutta personally supervised the loading operations.

The IAF transport plane is scheduled to take off for Pakistan shortly before midnight, and land at Islamabad airport at 0045 hours local time on Wednesday. The delay in taking off is in view of extremely busy air traffic at the Islamabad airport which is choc-a-bloc because of earthquake relief operations.

Before the formal grant of permission, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Kasuri rang up his Indian counterpart, Mr Natwar Singh, in the afternoon and thanked India for providing emergency relief supplies for the quake victims. Mr Natwar Singh informed him that the first consignment of relief material from India would be airlifted from here later in the day.

As a result of the Indian quake diplomacy, an unprecedented atmosphere of cooperation and solidarity is prevailing all along the Line of Control. Both sides are not objecting to flying of helicopters right up to the LoC on either side— something which the two sides cannot do under the mutually agreed norms of military conduct during peace time.

However, despite the LoC presently turning into a line of camaraderie of sorts, Pakistan still finds it politically incorrect to even think of launching joint rescue operations along the LoC. Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran was asked about this aspect at his press briefing last evening and his reply was: “I do not see any indication yet that there could be joint operations. But there are certain points along the LoC which are more easily accessible from the Indian side. So, if those particular points are indicated to us by our Pakistani friends where they would like us to send relief material across or even some medical help, we are geared to provide that.” Mr Saran went on record to say that New Delhi had conveyed to the Pakistani side that there were certain areas along the LoC which might be easier to access from the Indian side. “What we have said is that if they can tell us the locations of these areas where they would like us to provide relief supplies across the LoC, and even perhaps send across foot patrols of medical personnel, we would be very happy to mobilise that. This has been noted by the Pakistani side. If there is any requirement, they will certainly come back to us,” the Foreign Secretary said.

The Indian Government is well aware of the sensibilities and comfort level of Pakistan in accepting quake relief supplies from India, particularly when Pakistan has made it clear that it has adequate number of medical and para-medical staff and did not require any personnel for quake relief. For this reason, it is not pushing Islamabad too much on issues like joint rescue operations along the LoC and sending relief personnel to Pakistan.


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