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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
World pressure on South Asian rivals
Pakistani troops near the Kashmir border
One million soldiers are massed along the border

India's decision to allow Pakistani civilian aircraft to use its airspace again follows intense diplomatic pressure on both countries aimed at avoiding a military conflict.

The announcement also comes just before US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld starts his visit to the region.

Although limited, it is just the sort of positive gesture India has been under pressure to make as a first step towards easing tensions with Pakistan.

It is seen as a political response to assurances from Washington - most recently US envoy Richard Armitage - that Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf is serious in his commitment to end cross-border militancy permanently.

Gesture politics

Indian officials also said they had seen some reduction in infiltration from Pakistan-administered Kashmir into Indian-administered Kashmir.

"We have welcomed the assurance given by the President of Pakistan that he is going to ensure that there will be a permanent end to infiltration," Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nirapama Rau said.

Indian artillery fire in the Kargil mountains in 1999
Cross-border artillery fire is common
However officials in Delhi say a trend has not yet been definitely established, and it will take more time to assess if there is a genuine and sustained decrease.

Pakistan has responded cautiously to India's move. A Foreign Ministry spokesman in Islamabad said it was a step in the desired direction, but more needed to be done.

The international community has been trying to lock both countries into a process of mutual confidence-building in which a conciliatory gesture from one side is quickly matched by a positive gesture from the other.

The intense military deployments mean there is still some threat of war, but India's announcement is the latest in a of a series of indications that the worst of this crisis may now be over.


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10 Jun 02 | South Asia
09 Jun 02 | South Asia
08 Jun 02 | Media reports
05 Jun 02 | South Asia
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