[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 February, 2005, 12:31 GMT
A passage to India and Pakistan
Family at the Line of Control
The Kashmir dispute has separated family members
The launch of the first bus service between Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir since partition is hugely significant.

The two parts of Kashmir have until recently been so rigidly divided that legitimate travel across the Line Of Control (LOC) that separates them has been impossible.

It is a divide that has been arguably more pronounced than the division of West and East Germany during the Cold War.

Land routes that connected the two regions when Kashmir was part of British India have become neglected.

Cultural connections

There are no air links between Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, and Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

Trade between the two regions has been almost non-existent over the past five decades, as have cultural exchanges, which have only recently begun to increase as relations between India and Pakistan grow warmer.

The only people who regularly succeed in crossing the LOC are militants fighting the Indian army. Delhi says they sneak across from bases located on the Pakistani side.

The division has been tough for residents of the two parts of Kashmir, especially given the many cultural and family connections.

The picture of relatives gathering on either side of the divide to exchange greetings is an echo of Berlin, where loved ones gathered at the Wall to snatch a glimpse of family and friends.

Passports

To reach this deal - which is likely to be welcomed by people on both sides - India and Pakistan have had to make compromises.

India has apparently dropped its demand that passengers on the bus service carry passports.

The Delhi-Lahore bus at the Wagah border post
The Delhi-Lahore bus service had inspired hope in Kashmiris

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri said travel would be granted by an "entry permit system" - rather than a passport - once the identities of travellers are verified.

In agreeing to the service, Pakistan could be seen to be toning down its constant refrain that all of Kashmir is "disputed territory".

During negotiations leading up to the announcement of the route, Islamabad was reported to have insisted that passengers should not carry travel documents bearing a Government of India stamp.

Delhi said it was reluctant to accept any stamp marked Government of Azad (Free) Kashmir, referring to the administration of the part of Kashmir under Pakistan's control.

In the end, both sides modified their stance to allow the service to go ahead.

When Mr Kasuri says the two countries have "come a long way over the past year or so" it is no exaggeration.

It may not sound much on the face of things, but in Kashmir it is a landmark breakthrough between two nuclear armed countries that only a few years ago came close to all-out war.


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific