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Monday, 9 July, 2001, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
India eases Pakistan travel
Indian soldiers in Kashmir
Kashmir is expected to be the key summit issue
India has announced it will start issuing visas to Pakistanis along the Line of Control in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Traders swap fruit
Exchanging goods at the border: Travel should now be easier
The move is the latest in a series of confidence-building measures before the two country's leaders meet this weekend in Delhi.

An Indian Foreign Ministry statement said checkpoints would be set up at various points along the border between the two countries - one of them in Kashmir.

The move came as political leaders in India publicly endorsed the forthcoming summit between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and the Pakistani military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since 1947, and there is growing international concern that the dispute could spark a wider conflagration in the region.

Confidence building

The special checkpoints in Kashmir, as well as Punjab and Rajasthan, would have counters able to issue Indian visas on the spot.

Officials said the move was designed to ease the often difficult process of travel between the two countries.

Currently, the only land routes between the two nations are a train service which crosses at Wagah, and the hugely popular Delhi-Lahore bus service.

The Line of Control in Kashmir, which divides the two sides in Kashmir, is closely monitored by Indian forces concerned about infiltration from Pakistan and possible cross-border terrorism.

Last week, India offered to send a top military official to Pakistan to discuss measures to reduce tension along the line.

Endorsement

In another development, political leaders emerged from a meeting with Prime Minister Vajpayee saying they supported discussion with Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir.

Sonia Gandhi
Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi: Welcomed summit
But some opposition representatives warned against making any concessions.

There has been unease in India about General Musharraf's plans to meet leading Kashmiri separatists during his visit.

Leaders of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of Kashmir parties, are expected to be invited to a reception at the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi.

Although the dispute over Kashmir will be high on the agenda, the two leaders are also expected to address broader issues, including the need to develop trade and encourage social and cultural exchanges.

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See also:

04 Jul 01 | South Asia
India frees jailed Pakistanis
05 Jul 01 | South Asia
Musharraf seeks Kashmir meeting
19 Jun 01 | South Asia
Date set for India-Pakistan summit
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