Trade Link Across Kashmir Agreed
3 May 2006
New Delhi: India and Pakistan have agreed to open the Line of Control (LoC) which divides Kashmir to trade by launching a truck service between the two sides. Officials from both countries have also announced that a second cross-Kashmir bus service will begin next month. The deal was struck hours before the Indian prime minister met moderate Kashmiri separatist leaders in Delhi. Both sides called the meeting positive. Talks came days after 35 Hindus were killed in Indian- administered Kashmir.In the latest violence, three soldiers and four suspected militants were killed in separate clashes overnight in the disputed state, the Indian military says. More than 60,000 people have died after an armed insurgency against Indian rule broke out in the state in 1989. Wednesday's meeting was the second time Manmohan Singh and a faction of the All Party Hurriyat Conference had held talks, after an earlier round last September. Talks Earlier in the day, top foreign ministry officials from India and Pakistan signed an agreement in Delhi to begin a truck service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad on either side of the LoC in July. 'It was agreed that the delegations from Chambers of Commerce from either side of the LoC will undertake visits at the earliest to discuss various aspects of trade,' a joint statement said. The two sides also agreed to start a second bus service that will run between Poonch in Indian- administered Kashmir and Rawalakot in Pakistan-administered Kashmir from 19 June. India and Pakistan, both of whom lay claim to Kashmir in its entirety, have been holding peace talks for the past two years but have made little progress on the core dispute. Violence India says recent attacks by militants are aimed at derailing peace efforts. On Sunday at least 26 Kashmiri Hindus were killed in two separate attacks blamed on the militants. The bodies of another nine Hindus were found on Monday. The attacks were the worst since a 2003 ceasefire between India and Pakistan and have been condemned by the separatists as well as a leading militant group, the Hizbul Mujahideen. After the talks with separatists last September, Mr Singh promised to reduce the number of Indian troops in Kashmir if there was a reduction in militant-inspired violence. But following the latest violence, India has sent additional troops to the troubled state.