India offers Pakistan $25m

India has offered long-time rival Pakistan $25m (Ј14m) in aid following the 8 October earthquake that killed more than 55,000 people. The rare donation, Delhi's largest to Pakistan since the 1960s, was made at a UN donor conference on Wednesday. The pledge was part of $580m (Ј327m) promised by donors following a UN warning of an impending catastrophe.

The UN says with winter looming, more than 3m people in mountain villages lack food and shelter.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman, Navtej Sarna, said in Delhi: "The government of Pakistan will be welcome to use this contribution for rebuilding homes and rehabilitating people, reconstructing the infrastructure and restoring essential services."

India previously passed three consignments of relief material to Pakistan but an offer to send helicopters into Pakistan-controlled Kashmir was turned down because of "military sensitivities".

The nations have fought two wars over Kashmir, which both claim in its entirety. This is one of the biggest aid pledges India has made to Pakistan.

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says India has been keen to be seen to contribute to the relief effort.

However, our correspondent says that both sides have yet to agree on how to open the Line of Control, the de facto border in Kashmir. Such a move would greatly ease relief efforts. Talks between Indian and Pakistani officials are expected on Saturday.

Pakistan says more than 54,000 people died in the quake in its northern region and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. More than 1,300 died in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

India's pledge followed a warning from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said a "winter without pity" was looming.

Relief workers say they face a race against time to provide shelter and food stocks for hundreds of thousands of people, particularly in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

"All humanitarian organisations are acutely aware that our window of opportunity for action is closing with the onset of the severe winter," UN relief coordinator Jan Egeland said in Geneva.

On Thursday, UN data revealed only two percent of $95m needed for shelter and non-food supplies had been received and only four percent of $58m for food, reports BBC news. I.L.