A bus that set off from Pakistani Kashmir has arrived in the city of Srinagar, in the part of Kashmir under Indian control. The arrival marks the end of an emotional day across the disputed region, as passengers braved the threat of attacks by militant organizations who pledged to disrupt the historic new bus link.
Passengers were greeted with applause, music and tears as they stepped off the two buses arriving in Srinagar from the city of Muzzafarabad, in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.
It is the first time India and Pakistan have allowed civilians to travel the road that crosses the Line of Control, the de-facto border splitting Kashmir between the two nations.
Kashmir has been divided since shortly after India and Pakistan won independence from colonial ruler Britain in 1947. Politics has also separated families since then.
Before the buses' arrival, nervous family members waited patiently to greet relatives they had not seen in years, or in some cases, whom they only knew through photographs, letters and phone calls.
Zahor Khan, 33, has never met his uncle, who moved to Pakistani-controlled Kashmir in 1947. He says when he saw his uncle, he could not keep control of his emotions and wept. He adds that he knew it was him because his uncle resembles their grandfather.
Similar scenes greeted the arrival of two buses that left Srinagar, bound for the city of Muzzafarabad in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched the buses earlier Thursday.
The opening of the bus link is the latest in a series of measures intended to ease tensions between India and Pakistan, who are historic enemies. They have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir.
India is also facing an insurgency by Islamic militants in the two-thirds of Kashmir it controls. The insurgents want the predominantly Muslim region to either merge with Pakistan, or to become independent.
Hundreds of Indian security personnel lined the highway the buses traveled, because of repeated threats by militants to attack the vehicles. On Wednesday, militants carried out a daring daylight attack on a government building in Srinagar, where passengers were staying ahead of the bus departure. None were injured.