India says it is ready to welcome Pakistan's surprise offer to drop its demand for implementing a U-N-mandated referendum on the future of the disputed Kashmir region.
In New Delhi's first reaction to Islamabad's offer, Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha said his government would always be ready to accept any change in the Pakistani position that a plebiscite in Kashmir is the only way.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, in an interview with Reuters, made an offer on Wednesday to set aside his country's 50-year-old demand.
The United States has also welcomed the Pakistani move as constructive.
Some Pakistani analysts and separatist leaders in Indian-controlled Kashmir also saw it as a step forward. But militants based in Pakistan criticized the move. And Pakistan's hard-line Islamic opposition coalition -- Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal -- said any move toward dropping the U-N resolution would be a "betrayal of Kashmiris" and "surrender before India."
Also on Friday, India and Pakistan agreed to restore rail service between the two countries from next month.