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Last Updated: 04/14/2005Cautious optimism best for India
The Kashmir bus service is a nice confidence building measure, but nothing more. India should remain cautious, as such signs of good will have, in the past, led to brutal conflicts.
In the words of then-Prime Minister of India Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Amristar-Lahore bus service that evoked much euphoria in India led to Kargil that brief but intense battle to regain the Himalayan peaks that were clandestinely occupied by Islamic militants backed by Pakistani armed forces.
And to get Kargil back, the Indian armed forces had to fight a pitched battle against heavy odds to overpower the heavily armed militants and Pakistani soldiers (of course, Pakistan never owned them even after they were killed in the fight) who squatted on Indian territory by taking advantage of the winter when troops on either side usually retreat to comfort zones only to return when the weather is more hospitable.
early 1960s slogan of Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai (Indians and Chinese are brothers)
made by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru has not been forgotten either.
now we have the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service that has opened up the gateway
of people-to-people contact on the
Yes, the prime minister of what India calls Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) or Azad Kashmir as Pakistan prefers to call it Sardar Sikander Hayat Khan was ready to see off the 30 passengers from his side and the 18 who crossed over from Jammu and Kashmir at the Aman Sethu, or the Kaman Post, that was last used by civilians 58 years ago.
spite of all this the United Progressive Alliance government in
least four separatist outfits issued threats and later claimed responsibility
for the arson and a IED (improvised explosive device) blast that missed the
inaugural bus by 10 minutes to passengers from the Indian side. The security
provided to the bus and the cordon around Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium in
there was nothing of that sort in Pakistan Kashmir, where TV footage showed
passengers and onlookers mingling with VIPs, district administration officials
and security personnel before the flag off. Neither did the jihadis based there
issue any threat to passengers who were packing their bags to cross over to the
Indian side. That is proof enough that the masters of these terror groups would
continue with what they have been doing for decades in
Those who must have forgotten the run-up to the Kargil war that came just months after the bonhomie struck by Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharief (then prime minister of Pakistan who was deposed in a bloodless coup by General Musharraf in 1999), must be told that there are not many Kashmiri families divided between the two sides of Kashmir - at least not as many as in the rest of India and mainland Pakistan.
the other hand, the Indian Kashmir has a separate constitution that ensures
special rights for the people. It also bars people from other parts of
That leaves one fact that has emerged over the past few
months over the bus service: Believe it or not, it is
Yet, the service is necessary and the buses on either side must continue to roll and perhaps increase the frequency in the near future. But be watchful as winter is easing and the snow will melt soon.
Make sure there are no more Kargils. Ensure the ring
masters of the jihadis are not armed with other ways of pushing their wards
across the border.
With more points like Sialkot (with Srinagar) and
Kokhrapar (with Munabao, the rail link in Rajasthan) set to be connected to
enhance people-to-people contacts between the two countries that have gone to
war thrice and stood eyeball-to-eyeball on more than one occasion, the CBMs will
continue as an ongoing saga resulting from the thaw. And
Rest assured (read continuance of the General who, it
may be recalled, led the forces during the brief but intense battle over Kargil)
What must be understood by Indian foreign policy experts and bureaucrats is that it is a core group of the Pakistani army in alliance with the ISI that is behind the training and arming of Islamic terror groups. It remains to be seen how much influence General Musharraf let alone politicians - wield in these matters.
With larger duties as the nation s President, it is
certain that the mullah-military alliance fomenting hatred against infidels is
working beyond the reach of the General himself. Those who disagree would do
well to find an explanation for all those incursions happening in
Please understand that the reduction in infiltration as
Indian politicians mouth at every given opportunity - has got more to do with
the efforts of the Indian armed forces rather than the initiatives taken from
across the border. That essentially means that the jehadis are all alive and
kicking and one bus service between the divided
While the bus is a good thing rolling,
there be more such bus services between the two sides of
Rakesh Kombra is the chief of the news bureau with The Gulf Today, Sharjah, UAE. He has worked for several years in New Delhi and has reported extensively from Kashmir and written extensively on the issue. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org