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Pakistan Welcomes Lifting of Indian Restrictions - 2002-06-10

Pakistan says it welcomes India's decision to lift air restrictions on Pakistani civilian planes flying over Indian territory.

Pakistani officials say the Indian move is a step in the right direction, but a lot more needs to be done to ease military tensions. Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar told state-run television that his government would give a positive response to India's decision.

Earlier, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told reporters that Pakistan will examine any steps taken by India, but the risk of war between the countries remains. "As long as the forces remain deployed and as long as there is a capability with their forces on the border to change their opinion and to change their intentions and take action at a short notice, the danger is not over," he said.

At a news conference in Islamabad just before India announced lifting of airspace restrictions, Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said a "meaningful" reduction in tensions can be achieved only after India pulls back its forces from the border. "The forces of both sides are in eyeball-to-eyeball position," he said. "Any thing can lead to a very dangerous situation. The first step towards de-escalation would be this disengagement of forces from the border. Dialogue would be another step towards discussing all issues, putting all the problems on the table and then discussing them in order to reach a solution."

Mr. Khan said Pakistan has stopped militants from crossing into Indian Kashmir - a root cause of the current tensions between India and Pakistan. "Pakistan's consistent efforts to prove to the international community that no infiltration across the Line of Control [dividing Kashmir] was taking place have finally starting bearing fruit," said Aziz Ahmed Khan."We are gratified to see that the international community responded to the war hysteria that was created, and intervened to de-escalate the situation."

The Pakistani spokesman says he hopes a visit by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld this week will help further improve the situation and de-escalate tensions in the region.