Indian PM Flags Off First Cross-Kashmir Train
13 April 2005
Udhampur: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday flagged off the first train on a cross-Kashmir service which will eventually link the trouble-wracked northern parts of the Himalayan region with the rest of India. The train between Jammu, Kashmir's southern winter capital, and Udhampur, about 55 kilometres further northeast, will eventually end in Baramulla, 55 kilometres west of the summer capital Srinagar - all areas considered to be hotbeds of rebels fighting Indian rule in the state. Flagging off the first stretch of the route, which cost about 5.1 billion rupees, Singh declared that the entire project would be completed by 2007. 'We want to start a new phase in Jammu and Kashmir - a phase of not just peace but also of prosperity and development,' Singh told a rally at the inauguration ceremony organised under a heavy security blanket. 'When this route is completed, it will help promote trade, commerce and tourism in the region,' he added. A train service to the mountainous region has been a long-standing demand of people of the region who accuse the Indian government of neglecting development in the state. The foundation stone for the line was laid in 1984. In the second phase of the project, the train will connect Udhampur to the town of Katra, which is visited by about six million Hindu pilgrims annually who come to pray at the Vaishno Devi shrine.