Bus link between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir to resume amid militant threats

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Across India and Pakistan, people will be watching with bated breath the progress of two 19-seater buses as they wend their way through the Himalayas this week.

Across India and Pakistan, people will be watching with bated breath the progress of two 19-seater buses as they wend their way through the Himalayas this week.

The journey of the two buses is supposed to herald a new era of peace and co-operation over the divided land of Kashmir. The first bus service between Indian-held and Pakistani-held Kashmir is set to start tomorrow. For many divided Kashmiri families, it will be their first opportunity for a reunion with long-lost relatives on the other side of the Line of Control.

But the omens are not good. Militants fighting against India's control of half of Kashmir have threatened to make the buses a "coffin" for any passenger who dares to travel. They warned: "If you board the bus and strengthen Indian hands you will writhe in blood and dust. It is better not to indulge in anti-freedom movement activities to save you from the horrible punishment."

They showed yesterday that they were in earnest by detonating a roadside bomb on the route the buses are supposed to take, injuring seven, most of them road construction workers, Indian authorities said.

Earlier in the day Indian security forces found and defused two landmines on the bus route of the 24 passengers scheduled to travel from Srinagar, in Indian-held Kashmir, to Muzaffarabad on the Pakistani side. Twenty-one passengers were under 24-hour protection in a safe house yesterday, after death threats from militants.

At least nine militants and two soldiers were killed yesterday, capping 10 days in which at least 57 people have been killed in clashes between security forces and militants - a high death count even by Kashmir's remorseless standards.

It was only three years ago that India and Pakistan were on the brink of the world's first nuclear war over Kashmir. The bus service is the product of the peace talks that have defused that tension. It is supposed to be a "confidence-building measure" that will lead to further agreement between the two sides, which is why the inaugural bus journey will be watched with such interest.

For many Kashmiris, the bus is also a symbol of hope that the rivalry between India and Pakistan that has brought their beautiful land to its knees may end.

Comments