India has welcomed moves by Pakistan to free up the movement of people across the border that separates the disputed territory of Kashmir following the devastating October 8 earthquake in the region.Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday urged India to allow the people of divided Kashmir to help each other deal with the disaster, offering free relief movement across the border.
"If Kashmiris from Indian-controlled Kashmir want to come and take part in the relief efforts, they are most welcome," Musharraf said at a media conference in Muzaffarabad.
In New Delhi, Navtej Sarna of the Ministry of External affairs said the Pakistani's leader's comment were a "welcome step in line with India's policy of increasing people-to-people contact over the Line of Control."
Kashmir, in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent, has been disputed by Pakistan, India and China since 1947. The Line of Control divides Pakistani-controlled Kashmir from the Indian-controlled area and the two rivals have fought three wars over the territory since 1947.
New Delhi had offered helicopters to assist in relief missions, but turned down a Pakistani suggestion that it send military helicopters without crews, The Associated Press reported.
Sarna said India would welcome additional contacts from Pakistan on the practical steps for allowing Kashmiris to move across the line. Still, conflict in Indian Kashmir continues with suspected Islamic militants killing the state's education minister during a raid Tuesday.
Earlier, a spokesman for India's Department of Telecommunications said four centers would be set up at Srinagar, Jammu, Uri and Tangdhar to help families contact their relatives on the other side of the border.
"These centers will permit people in Jammu and Kashmir who have relatives in Muzaffarabad to contact them on telephone, free of charge, for the next fortnight."
On Wednesday, a pair of earthquakes rattled northern Pakistan. A 5.8-magnitude temblor hit about 80 miles (130 km) north of Islamabad, Pakistan around 7:33 a.m. (10:33 p.m. EDT Tuesday).
Less than an hour later and only five miles to the west, a 5.6-magnitude quake rumbled at 8:16 a.m. (11:16 p.m. EDT).
Meanwhile on Tuesday, international aid officials warned that the situation for survivors of the South Asian earthquake remained grave more than a week after the disaster, with as many as a million survivors yet to receive help, reports CNN. I.L.