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Modest Diplomacy of Kashmir’s Bus Service Endures

  • Ayaz Gul

India and Pakistan are known for their tense relations, but one modest program aimed at bridging those differences in the hotly contested Kashmir region has endured for more than 10 years.

The Kashmir bus route has been ferrying families across the Line of Control since April 2005, braving occasional gunfire, in what has become an enduring model of cooperation and a vital link for people in both countries.

Only Kashmiris can travel on the weekly bus between Muzafarabad and Srinagar, the capitals of Indian and Pakistani Kashmir.

Ghulam Mohiuddin has just arrived in Muzafarabad with his family to attend a wedding of his siblings.

“I feel to be the happiest man today to have got this chance of traveling by this bus and coming to my blood relations,” he said.

Mohiuddin said the bus service has reunited his family, overcoming decades of separation.

Khawaja Shoaib and his son are traveling to attend two wedding parties on the Indian side.

“The border clashes are not a good thing because they hurt civilians on both sides. It's a matter of concern but does not scare us," he said.

Although the bus service is popular, Kashmiris on both sides complain that obtaining travel permission involves a lengthy process, making it difficult to rely on for emergencies or special family occasions.

Several cross-Kashmir border marriages have taken place in the last five years.

But procedural delays forced the wedding parties to undertake a 1,000 kilometer journey through international borders rather than the 179 kilometer ride from Srinagar to Muzafarabad.

“It has not touched their hopes, it has not touched their expectations so far,” said Mohiuddin.

Kashmiris hope that no matter how bad the situation becomes between India and Pakistan, the bus service will continue its journey.

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