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India Offers $25 Million in Quake Aid

October 27, 2005

NEW DELHI (AP) _ India has offered $25 million in aid to Pakistan, an Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman said of the latest gesture between the two countries to help each other since a powerful earthquake devastated the disputed Kashmir region.

India made the offer at a meeting of the United Nations held in Geneva on Wednesday, spokesman Navtej Sarna said.

``Pakistan is free to use the money for rebuilding homes, rehabilitating people and reconstructing infrastructure, and restoring essential services,″ Sarna said.

The Oct. 8 quake killed at least 54,000 people in Pakistan, most of them in the Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir, which is split between the South Asian neighbors. More than 1,300 people died on the Indian side.

India and Pakistan _ rivals for decades, but now talking peace _ have traded offers and counteroffers as they try to forge a shared relief effort in the Himalayan region.

Last week Pakistan’s President Gen. Pervez Musharraf proposed to allow residents from India’s portion of Kashmir to cross over the highly militarized Line of Control that divides the region to meet with relatives on the Pakistani side and help in relief work. India welcomed the move and its military has since started work on relief camps along the frontier for quake victims on the other side.

Sarna said Thursday that Pakistan may also source supplies of building materials such as cement and steel from Indian companies. He said New Delhi can also help in sharing its expertise in prefabricated quake-resistant shelters.

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