April 2004 News

LoC fencing and visa policy delaying Kashmir bus service

18 April 2004
The Daily Times
Amir Rana

LAHORE: Fencing the Line of Control (LoC), the Indian elections and differences over visa policy are delaying the bus service between the two parts of Kashmir. 'Pakistan and India have their own reservations about the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service - India fears that the bus service will increase infiltration if its visa policy is not applied while Pakistan says that the bus journey should start under an international agreement in which Kashmir must be considered disputed territory,' sources told Daily Times. 'The upcoming Indian elections also played a role in delaying the technical level talks for the bus service between India and Pakistan, but the fencing on the LoC was another important factor in the delay,' sources said, adding that India wanted to shut all doors on the militants before the bus started. The sources said the bus service could be a major confidence-building measure between Pakistan and India. 'The beginning of the bus service will mean the end of infiltration, a permanent ceasefire not only on the LoC but also by the militants and the Indian army in Held Kashmir,' sources said. The sources said that the Indian government could not relax visas for Kashmiris because of elections. 'If India holds back visas for Indians and gives them to Kashmiris, this would mean that Kashmir is not indeed an integral part of India and the Indian opposition can gain political mileage from the issue,' sources said. 'Likewise if Pakistan relaxes visas for Kashmiris, it would mean that Pakistan had accepted the LoC as a permanent border, and that would be against United Nations resolutions on Kashmir that Pakistan is fighting its case on. The UN resolutions say that the LoC is a temporary border. There is no law that binds Kashmiris to use visas or other papers to travel within Kashmir. Kashmiris only required nationality certificates to cross the LoC till 1956,' the sources said.They said that the technical level talks on the bus service would resume after the Indian elections ended.


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