Will a bus running across the borders bring cordial relations between the two south asian nuclear rivals India and Pakistan? Well this is a question that will look for its answer on it own and time can only find its answer.
The first bus from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad was flagged off in the an auspicious ceremony in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA president Sonia Gandhi. The April 7 trip to Muzaffarabad involves thirty passengers in a two 15 seater buses. Among the VIP travelers were People's Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference Chief Omar Abdullah and state CPI-M secretary Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami.
Sonia Gandhi also unveiled a "peace wall" in Uri which is dedicated to the Indo-Pakistani friendship, looking forward to further work on building the relationship by introducing more Confidence building measures.(CBM's).
The bus was rightly named as the Karwan-e-Aman (The Caravan of Peace) as it took a message between the two Kashmirs divided by destiny. The whole idea behind this bus service is to increase people to people contact between families living across the borders who had to sacrifice their beloved ones to the heartless borders marked by the two nations.
However it's has to be watched and seen as to how much the two governments are successful in making this possible. Besides diplomatic promises of uniting the divided families things has to move in a transparent manner in the grassroots level when it comes to getting clearance for the journey and in other documentation matters concerning the journey. This is where the central and the state government have to play their role.
A process well started is like half done proves wrong here as this process is hypersensitive in nature and concerns the sentiments of scores of divided families suppressed for decades under territorial demarcations. It's a commendable fact that the government has a taken a positive step forward in the betterment of Indo-Pak relations.
The two countries decided to implement another CBM by opening the rail link between Munnabao in Rajasthan and Khokhrapar in Sind near Karachi in December. There is also a proposal to extend the Munnabao-Khokhrapur train service up to Karachi The rail link will benefit thousands of families, living near Karachi, who had migrated from India, mainly from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Delhi during Partition. The two countries have agreed upon plying trucks across the Line of Control in Kashmir. This move is going to be of immense help for Kashmiri apple growers in finding new markets in areas around Rawalpindi in turn boosting Kashmir's economy.
On April 22, 2005 during the Asian African summit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told press reporters the following "I really believe that if this process is allowed to go forward, it will create a climate conducive to the final settlement," The prime minister also added that it was not possible to put a time frame for resolving the problem. "I really don''t know today. It is a process. I can't lay down a timetable, where will it lead us or when will it". "But I am convinced this is the way of looking at the problem which creates a situation where there are no losers, no winners.
"They only gainers are the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the prospects of reconciliation between the people of India and the people of Pakistan"
To conclude I would like to say that it is time to take advantage of the conducive atmosphere and take the process ahead and come up with more confidence building measures and introduce more trade links and introduce measures that will mutually benefit the two nations.
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A freelance journalist