India, Pakistan Fail To Agree On Restarting Kashmir Bus Link
8 December 2004
Voice of America
New Delhi: India and Pakistan have ended two days of talks on a popular proposal to start a bus service linking the capitals of divided Kashmir. The two sides apparently failed to resolve their differences over how to implement the proposal. The talks in New Delhi on starting a bus link between Srinagar in Indian Kashmir and Muzaffarabad on the Pakistani side ended with a brief statement by India's foreign ministry spokesman, Navtej Sarna, saying more discussions will be held on the proposal. 'Both sides reiterated their commitment towards an early establishment of the proposed link. Ideas were exchanged on all aspects of operationalization of the bus service,' he says. But reports say the restoration of the 170-kilometer link has hit a stumbling block over what travel documents passengers should carry. India insists passengers should carry passports. But Pakistan opposes the use of passports, fearing that would amount to an implicit recognition of the 'Line of Control' in Kashmir as a permanent border. Indian media reported that Islamabad suggested passengers should travel with less-formal documents such as local citizenship certificates. The Srinagar- Muzaffarabad bus service was cut in 1947 at the time India and Pakistan were granted independence by Britain. The two new states fought a war over Kashmir, leading to the region's division. As a result, many divided families live on the two sides of one of the world's most heavily militarized borders - and there is huge popular support in Kashmir for the start of the service. India and Pakistan began negotiations earlier in the year to solve their differences over Kashmir and other issues. Analysts say restoration of the bus service would be the single most important signal that the rivals are serious about ending decades of hostility over the region. Both countries claim the territory in full, and it has been the cause of two of their three wars. A ceasefire has been in place along the disputed border since last year.