Accord reached on new bus route with India

Published September 29, 2005

NEW DELHI, Sept 28: India and Pakistan on Wednesday agreed to start a bus service in October linking two cities on either side of their only border crossing as part of an ongoing peace process, an official here said.

The agreement came after two days of talks in the Indian capital. It will be only the second bus service crossing India and Pakistan’s international border.

“The trial run of the Lahore-Amritsar bus service being operated by both sides will take place in the second half of October 2005 with a view to starting regular bus service in the first half of November 2005,” Dilip Sinha, a joint secretary at the Indian foreign ministry, read from a joint statement.

In April, India and Pakistan agreed on the first bus service to link divided Kashmir in almost 60 years as part of a peace process begun in January 2004.

The Lahore-Amritsar bus, covering 45 kilometres, will link the two countries via the only international land crossing at Wagah in the state of Punjab, divided between India and Pakistan at partition in 1947.

The two sides also said on Wednesday they would hold further talks on a proposed bus service between Amritsar and Nankana Sahib, the site of a Sikh shrine near Lahore.

Both sides agreed in January last year to enhance economic, transport and cultural links while working to resolve a dispute over Kashmir.

An analyst said the latest confidence-building measure was important for people affected by the hostility between India and Pakistan whose leaders held talks, seen as inconclusive, this month in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

“One cannot say that this is a great leap forward but such people-to-people contacts are perhaps as important as the other steps India and Pakistan have initiated to improve relations,” said Rajendra Dayal, a political analyst at Delhi University.

“And if you want to add momentum to such cultural links, then greater economic activity like higher volumes of trade through these transit routes should be allowed by the two countries which will also endorse their commitment to peace,” he said.

“And the bottom line here is that divided families of the two Punjabs, who suffered during our three wars, will benefit by this.”—AFP

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