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Trade, bus services resume across LoC as tensions ebb

January 28, 2013

int Action Committee for Peoples Rights (JACPR) activists holds placards during a vigil for peace between Pakistan and India in Karachi on January 27, 2013. — AFP Photo

SRINAGAR: A cross-border bus service between India and Pakistan, suspended along with trade after deadly army clashes earlier this month, resumed on Monday in a sign of easing tension between the neighbours.

Ismail Khan, director-general of a government body that oversees trade and travel in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, confirmed that trade would resume Tuesday. “We closed it because of direct firing from the Indian side on the road where the goods trucks were passing. Now the firing has stopped, we will resume it,” he said.

Talking to Radio Kashmir, Poonch-Rawalakot bus service provider and trade custodian Lakshmana said that a total of 217 passengers including 109 from Indian-administered Kashmir and 108 from Pakistani-administered Kashmir have already crossed the border.

Cross-border trade, which had been encouraged in recent years as a means to improve strained relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, was also set to resume on Tuesday after being frozen for the last two weeks.

“We are assessing losses the traders suffered because they could not send perishable items across on time,” Shant Manu, secretary for industries and commerce in Indian-administered Kashmir, told AFP.

The recent flare-up along the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan saw a total of five soldiers killed earlier this month, with fears that tensions between the two countries could escalate.

A ceasefire agreement on January 16 between commanders in both armies has held, however, with politicians on both sides seen as keen to avoid wrecking recent progress in their slow-moving peace process.

The cross LoC bus service from Poonch in Indian-administered Kashmir to Rawalakot in the Pakistani administered side began in 2005 to enable members of divided families in the region to meet each other.

Another bus service that departs from the Uri sector of Indian-administered Kashmir to the Pakistani side has been closed because of heavy snowfall in the area.