Poonch-Rawalkote Bus Service Flagged Off
19 June 2006
The Indian Express
Jammu: Security forces were put on maximum alert in Kashmir where a second bus linking Poonch in Kashmir and Rawalkote in PoK was flagged off by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and J&K Chief Minister were also present at the ceremony. The region is a hotbed of Islamic militancy that has raged against Indian rule in Kashmir since 1989, killing more than 45,000 people. The border area was also one of the worst scenes of daily exchange of mortar and other gunfire between Indian and Pakistani troops until the nuclear rivals agreed to a ceasefire in 2003. 'We know this is a very sensitive area and we can't afford to lower our guard here at any point of time,' a senior defence ministry official, who did not wish to be named, told Reuters. Since 2004, India and Pakistan have been in peace talks to resolve their historical dispute over Kashmir. The hostile neighbours have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir. The Poonch-Rawalkot bus, which will cover a distance of 55 km, would be the second inter-Kashmir service after the one connecting Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital and Muzaffarabad, capital of the Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The transport link has made it possible for members of families, divided during the division of Kashmir after the first India-Pakistan war in 1947, to meet each other after decades. Local people were optimistic the bus would help improve ties. 'This is an emotional issue,' said Ghulam Mohammed Jan, a lawmaker of the area. 'Such attempts would help in ending the bitterness between the people of both sides. There is hardly any family here that was not affected in 1947.'