ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan said Monday it will accept relief aid for earthquake victims from its longtime rival India (search), a move that carries immense political implications for the neighbors who have fought three wars.
India's Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said his country would send tents, food, blankets and medicine to the hard-hit Pakistani portion of Kashmir (search).
The announcement came after Pakistani Foreign Ministry said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh telephoned Pakistan's high commissioner in New Delhi and "reiterated his offer to send relief aid to us for earthquake victims."
High Commissioner Aziz Ahmed Khan met Singh and then contacted the government in Islamabad, which decided to accept the Indian offer after consultations at the highest level, Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.
Earlier Monday, India said Pakistan (search) turned down its offer of helicopters for rescue operations, saying it had enough at the moment. Pakistan also ruled out launching joint rescue operations with India for earthquake victims in Kashmir.
Pakistan and India have a long history of bitter relations, particularly over Kashmir — the focus of two of their three wars. However, the two sides have taken several steps since last year to improve relations.
Soon after Saturday's earthquake, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (search) had called Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and offered humanitarian help. Musharraf also made a similar offer for the victims of the quake in the Indian portion of Kashmir where more than 800 people died.
Death toll estimates in Pakistan ranged from 20,000 to 30,000.