India and Pakistan have opened a trade route in the divided region of Kashmir
for the first time in six decades. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi,
hopes are high that the latest confidence-building measure between the two
countries will lower tensions in the region, which is claimed by both
There was a mood of
celebration as trucks laden with fruits and other goods crossed over from Indian
and Pakistani Kashmir to the other side, signaling the start of trade in the
region after six long decades.
In Indian Kashmir, banners saying "Long
live trade across the two sides" fluttered on the trucks as villagers and
In Pakistani Kashmir, white doves of peace were
released as the trucks began their journey.
The opening of trade across
the tightly-guarded border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan is
the second major step taken by the two countries to allow contact in the
disputed region since they launched a peace process, four years ago. A
cross-border bus service was launched in 2005.
The trade begins four
months after Indian Kashmir was wracked my massive anti-India protests. led by
separatist groups. Their demands included the opening of a trade route to
A leader of the separatist alliance, the All Parties Huriyat
Conference, Abdul Ghani Bhat, says allowing trade is a good step, but hopes it
will lead to a political solution of the Kashmir dispute between India and
"First steps are first steps, but it is the last step which
will determine whether the dispute on Kashmir has permanently been settled or
not," said Bhat.
Trade will be restricted. Only four trucks from each
side will be allowed to ferry a limited set of goods, once a week, between
Srinagar on the Indian side and Muzaffarabad on the Pakistani side. A second
trade route will be opened in the coming months, linking Poonch in India with
Rawalkot in Pakistani Kashmir.
Pakistani Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar
Atique Ahmed Khan says volumes will be improved and trade will be expanded. He
expresses hope increasing contact and communication between the two sides will
ultimately help to resolve the Kashmir conflict, but cautioned against expecting
"All these things, slowly and gradually, they are
contributive factors towards the ultimate resolution," said Atique (of the
The slow moving peace process between India and
Pakistan has lowered tensions in the region, but the two countries are no closer
to resolving their territorial dispute.
During the 1990's, a violent
separatist insurgency wracked Indian Kashmir - which is the only Muslim majority
region in predominantly Hindu India. India blames Pakistan-based Islamic groups
for the violence and has moved slowly in opening up the tightly-guarded