Kashmir Bus Route Is A Minefield
21 February 2005
The Times of India
Muzaffarabad: Soldiers could clear mines from the bus route linking the two parts of the disputed region within a week after approval from Islamabad, a military commander said Monday. The service, to start on April 7, is the first tangible fruit of 13 months of dialogue between the neighbours who have fought three wars, two over Kashmir. 'The day we are given the go ahead signal, we will start the lifting of mines from the very next morning,' Brigadier Naushad Ahmed told reporters at Chakothi sector, some 61 kilometres (38 miles) south of Muzaffarabad. Chakothi is the last Pakistani military post on the heavily militarised Line of Control, the de facto border separating Kashmir between nuclear - armed India and Pakistan. 'The process (of mines removal) is only subject to the clearance by the higher authorities,' Ahmed said. Mine removal could be completed within a week, he said, which would allow the operation of equipment for bridge building and road widening. Chakothi overlooks the footbridge over the water course that divides the disputed Himalayan region between India and Pakistan. Army bunkers and the Srinagar road winding through the mountains on the other side are clearly visible. Some Indian troops waved to the group led by Pakistani Kashmirs top civilian official Kashif Murtaza and other officers who visited the area to review arrangements for the smooth operation of the bus service from April 7. 'There are some modalities which are to be finalised. As soon as it is done, the issue of mine lifting will be decided at the level of director generals military operations,' Brigadier Ahmed said. 'Both the troops are facing each other and will start mine lifting simultaneously under (an) agreement,' he added. Murtaza, chief secretary of Pakistani Kashmir, told reporters he was sure that his highway department team would be able to make the road and a bus terminal operational by April. 'We will utilise our full resources and manpower so that the movement of the people between the two parts is made smoothest,' he said.