November 2005 News

Kashmir Civilian Crossing Delayed

6 November 2005

Islamabad: India and Pakistan say they do not expect civilians to cross Kashmir's de facto border on Monday, when a deal to help earthquake victims takes effect. Lists of people wishing to travel between Pakistani and Indian-controlled parts of the disputed territory had still to be processed, the sides said. Instead, truckloads of aid are expected to be sent in both directions. On Saturday, India said just one of five planned crossing points would open on time on the Line of Control (LoC). Map of earthquake zone The news came as aid agencies warned that the relief operation needed to be speeded up if more deaths during winter were to be prevented. Pakistan's meteorological office says it expects the weather to worsen later this week, with snow falling at lower altitudes where hundreds of thousands of people are still without adequate shelter. Landmines The deal struck between India and Pakistan a week ago was intended to allow Kashmiris divided by years of conflict to help each other following the 8 October quake. The BBC's Chris Morris in Islamabad says it now looks more like a symbolic gesture than a historic breakthrough. Both sides blame a range of logistical problems, as well as each other, for the setbacks. 'We do not expect any people to cross the LoC. We haven't received any list of Kashmiris from the Indian government and no one from our side is crossing there,' Pakistan's Foreign Office spokeswoman, Tasneem Aslam, told the BBC on Sunday. Indian army spokesman AK Bakshi said formalities were not yet complete. He thought it would another 10 days before civilians crossed the LoC. On Saturday, India said the opening of the heavily-militarised LoC would be at just one point, Poonch. It said another two crossing points should be able to open later in the week. Soldiers are still clearing blocked roads and removing landmines. Our correspondent says political sensitivities and long-standing distrust are slowing things down. India is concerned that Muslim militants could try to infiltrate into territory it controls under the guise of meeting family members, he says. Cold fears An estimated three million people are homeless in the earthquake zone, and many are still to receive help. On Saturday, the UN said the focus of relief efforts must now shift to providing heating. UN emergency coordinator Jan Vandemoortele said the priority was to supply gas, kerosene and wood stoves, as well as tents. Another UN official said the organisation would have to make tough choices about who to help because of a shortage of funds. The UN says it has only been given $135m of the $550m it needs. Pakistan says the death toll stands at more than 73,000. Nearly 1,400 people died in Indian-administered Kashmir, officials say. Aftershocks are still a regular occurrence, causing frequent landslides and spreading more fear among survivors.


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