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India-Pakistan Bus Service Resumes - 2003-07-07

Passenger buses are set to resume traveling between India and Pakistan later this week after a suspension of more than 18 months. The development is another step in building trust and moving towards peace talks between the two rival south Asian nations.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan says the bus service from India to Pakistan will resume simultaneously Friday. At his regular weekly news conference in Islamabad, he told reporters that a Pakistani bus will leave the eastern city of Lahore for New Delhi and an Indian bus will make the opposite journey.

"The bus service is starting from July 11," he said. "It would start off from Lahore at 6:00 a.m. [local time]. And after a journey of 11 hours it should be there in Delhi."

Mr. Khan says that Indian security personnel will escort the Pakistani bus along its entire journey though Indian territory.

"Yes, there is security cover for the buses," said Mr. Khan. "In fact, our bus would be passing through two [Indian] states and the provincial security forces would be there. There would be proper escort on that side throughout their travel."

A deadly attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 led to the suspension of road, rail, and air links between India and Pakistan. New Delhi blamed the attack on Pakistan-backed Islamic militants, fighting Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region. Pakistan denies the charges.

The incident triggered serious border tensions, bringing the two countries to the brink of another border war over Kashmir.

Intense international diplomacy helped reduce those tensions, and since April the two countries have taken several steps to help normalize bi-lateral relations, including restoration of full diplomatic ties.

Both India and Pakistan also plan to begin peace talks aimed at settling the Kashmir dispute, but they have yet to announce dates for such a dialogue.