India Wants Bus To PoK From Aug 1
18 March 2004
The Times of India
New Delhi: India has decided to push for August 1 as the date for the first buses on the proposed Srinagar-Muzaffarabad to make their historic journey across the Line of Control. Official sources told The Times of India that every effort will be made to ensure the required infrastructure - especially a motorable bridge across the Jhelum at Lal Pul on the LoC - is in place by that date. 'We are hoping Pakistan will cooperate fully', an official said, since the construction of a bridge will require the two sides to work together. Official sources said technical talks on the intra-Kashmir bus, originally set for March 28-29, will now be held on April 8-9 in Islamabad . The 183 km-long distance between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad last saw through traffic in 1947, when Lal Pul, a key bridge over the Jhelum , was destroyed. The road was opened to the public in 1892 after the Dogra ruler of J&K, Maharaja Partap Singh, went across from Uri on a bullock cart to Domel in what is now Pak- occupied Kashmir . Today, a foot bridge (known as ' Week Bridge ') exists on no-man's land across the LoC but the only persons who use it are officials from the UN Monitoring Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). The 117 km-long road from Srinagar to Lal Pul, via Baramulla and Uri, is in reasonable condition but there is no bridge for a bus to cross the LoC. Officials on both sides told this reporter the Munabao-Khokhrapar bus talks earlier this month went well but in the absence of proper infrastructure, a final decision had to be kept pending. There are daily passenger buses from Barmer to Munabao, about 1.5 kms from the Pakistan border, but the road from there is virtually non-existent. On the Pakistani side, the nearest serviceable road is as much as 40 km from the border. Khokhrapar, which is 6 km from the border, has a railway station with onward metre-gauge connections towards Mirpur. The Indian rail system upto Munabao is broad-gauge.