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India Lifts Restrictions on Pakistani Flights - 2002-06-10

India says it is lifting restrictions on Pakistani civilian aircraft flying over Indian territory. Senior Indian officials say it is a positive response to Pakistan's steps to end the cross-border infiltration of militants into Indian territory

Saying there has been a reduction of cross-border infiltration of militants in Indian-administered Kashmir, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Nirupuma Rao announced India is taking a first step to ease tensions with Pakistan.

"All restrictions placed since 1 January of this year on Pakistani aircraft and Pakistan airlines to over fly Indian territory are lifted, she announced.

Ms. Rao says the situation along the "line of control" is "fluid." She says the announcement was "not a small step, but a significant one" in the context of the current India-Pakistan crisis.

There had been media speculation that India would announce further measures to ease tensions, including the return to Islamabad of an Ambassador, and the pullback of warships from the Arabian Sea.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage concluded a diplomatic mission to India and Pakistan on Saturday. Following his visit to New Delhi, the U.S. envoy said he believed Indian officials would reciprocate Pakistan's pledge of a permanent end to cross-border infiltration with "a ratcheting down of some sort of military tension."

Nirupuma Rao says Indian officials believe there are indications of a decline of cross-border incursions by separatist militants. But she said India would continue to assess the situation to determine whether cross-border infiltration has ended.

"There has been a certain announcement made by the government of Pakistan in recent days about putting a permanent end to infiltration and cross border terrorism," said Ms. Rao. "Obviously our response to these measures will be sequenced, there is a menu of options available to the government. And today's announcement should be seen as an indication of our continued monitoring of the situation."

Pakistan says all infiltration from its territory has stopped. It also denies actively supporting the militants.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrives Tuesday in New Delhi. He will be briefed by senior Indian officials about steps they plan to take to ease tensions with Pakistan.

From New Delhi Mr. Rumsfeld travels to Islamabad for similar talks with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.