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India, Pakistan Agree on New Cross-Border Bus Route


India and Pakistan have agreed to open a new bus route linking two cities on opposite sides of the border, as part of their on-going peace process. The bus route is the latest in a series of confidence-building measures designed to ease decades of mistrust between the two nuclear rivals.

Indian officials say there will be a trial run of the new bus linking the Indian city of Amritsar with Lahore, in Pakistan, before the end of next month.

The opening of the bus route is part of a series of measures begun in 2003 designed to improve economic and cultural ties between India and Pakistan after decades of animosity.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars - two of them over the disputed region of Kashmir, which each side claims as its own. The Kashmir issue remains a source of serious friction between the two sides, both of which are nuclear powers.

That is why, analysts say, steps like the opening of cross-border transport links plays such a crucial role in the peace process.

"One thing that is very important that we must understand is that the present phase of the peace process is driven by people," said S.D. Muni, a professor of International Relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University in the Indian capital New Delhi. "They are playing a very, very important role - unlike in previous occasions when only states were talking to each other. And therefore, they would provide the base and the routes for eventual political settlement or on the question of war and peace."

The agreement came after two days of meetings in New Delhi.

In April, a bus route was opened up linking two cities on opposite sides of the Line of Control, the de-facto border dividing Kashmir. The success of that route has been seen as a sign the peace process is taking root.

Officials say they are also close to opening a bus link between Amritsar and the Pakistani city of Nankana Sahib - both of which are holy sites for members of the Sikh religion.

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