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Open up LoC at 5 points, urges Pak
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 22
Pakistan today finally came up with a formal proposal for the opening up of the LoC for facilitating relief and rehabilitation work in earthquake-affected areas and suggested five crossing points at the LoC, two more than what India suggested almost simultaneously.

Pakistan proposed to open up the LoC at Mendhar, Haji Pir, Kaman (near Aman Setu in Uri), Tithwal (Tangdhar) and Chakan da Bagh (Poonch) while the Indian proposal pertained to the last three where it offered to run medical relief camps for people from PoK from October 25, subject to Pakistani approval.

The Indian proposal was made to Pakistan at 4 pm (IST) while the Pakistani proposal was made to India at 5.30 (PST). It is being interpreted in diplomatic circles here as meaning that the idea germinated independently in the minds of the two countries’ foreign policy makers.

Both sides would be getting back to each other within the next 48 hours, if not 24 hours. New Delhi appeared to be game and appeared confident of working out an early decision. The MEA spokesperson, Mr Navtej Sarna, issued a brief statement late tonight saying: “It appears to us that the proposals made by Pakistan can be reconciled with those that we ourselves had already made. As recommended by Pakistan, we are ready to engage in discussions between our two Foreign Offices on these modalities and reach an early decision. In the meantime, we are prepared to consider dispatch of relief materials and supplies to the quake affected areas through the three points we have designated and which match some of the points that Pakistan has indicated. We will discuss these arrangements with Pakistan as well.”

Earlier, India had unilaterally announced that it will set up composite relief and rehabilitation points at three places along the Line of Control — Kaman (near Aman Setu in Uri), Tithwal (Tangdhar) and Chakan da Bagh (Poonch) — to provide facilities for medical assistance and relief to people from across the LOC.

The Ministry of External Affairs also announced that it will make these camps operational from October 25. However, the camps will be set up only after Pakistan’s green signal.

With this announcement, New Delhi has scored a diplomatic brownie point over Islamabad as the message which it sends across to the international community is that India is responding to Pakistan’s terrorist training camps by medical aid camps for the quake-devastated people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Northern Areas.

People from across the LoC will be permitted to come to these points after necessary screening during daylight hours and return after receiving medical treatment and relief. Those who require longer treatment will be allowed to stay overnight. MEA spokesperson Navtej Sarna said arrangement was being made for providing relief material, medical aid, food, drinking water and temporary accommodation at these points.

Also, Indian nationals will be able to go to these points for meeting their relatives who may be coming from across the LoC.

Mr Sarna made an important point later tonight. He said: “Those NGOs and other Indian relief organisations who want to send relief material to Pakistan are advised to first contact the Pakistan High Commission for clearance. After that they may contact PAI Division of Ministry of External Affairs. This Division would then facilitate customs clearance and other formalities for transportation of these goods across the Attari-Wagah border.”

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