Civilians from India legally walked into Pakistan

For the first time in 58 years, Indians legally walked into Pakistan after a landmark decision to open divided Kashmir's heavily militarized border.

The temporary measure aimed at reuniting families after the earthquake that devastated the region may go a long way toward easing tensions between the two nuclear rivals.

The 23 Indians who crossed over on Saturday hoped to visit relatives they have not seen since the frontier was drawn after the 1948 war between the neighboring countries, leaving most of Kashmir with India and a smaller part with Pakistan.

On Saturday, 62-year-old Khair-ul-Nissa Shah was among those to cross a new footbridge built over the Kishanganga River to Pakistani Kashmir. She said she was traveling there for the first time to see her two sisters, who moved to the village of Parnai after marrying men there 40 years ago.

Lingering fear and suspicion repeatedly delayed the opening of the frontier to civilian traffic, although both countries have exchanged relief material during the past month.

Pakistan gave India a list of 127 people who wanted to visit families and friends in Indian Kashmir, but New Delhi has yet to give permission, a Pakistani official said on condition of anonymity, according to government policy.

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Saturday the Oct. 8 quake, which killed which killed 86,000 people in Pakistan and another 1,350 in India, could serve as "an opportunity of a lifetime" for both countries to end hostilities.

Even before the quake, however, tensions have eased somewhat in recent years.

In 2003, the two agreed to talks on resuming air links and restoring the Samjhotha Express train from India to Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore. Pakistan accepted resumption of sporting events with India and agreed to re-establish shipping service severed in the 1960s between Bombay and Karachi.

After the quake, a new thaw began when the Indian prime minister called Musharraf and offered humanitarian help. Musharraf made a similar offer for the victims of the quake in the Indian portion of Kashmir, reported AP. P.T.