"Peace Bus" Stultified by Security Checks
A bus service connecting families in divided Kashmir was launched with much fanfare as a “peace bus” in April 2005, but elaborate security checks and stultifying bureaucracy have severely limited the number of people actually traveling on the bus.
Some passengers have waited a year or longer to have their paperwork processed in order to receive a permit to travel on the bus between the two hostile neighbors. The fortnightly bus has on several occasions traveled with only a handful of passengers or even totally empty. The bus line was seen as one of the concrete achievements in the halting peace process that was begun in early 2004. But the mood of optimism has largely evaporated.
Only 311 of 6,000 people in India who applied to travel to Pakistani Kashmir actually made the trip in the past year, while 505 passenger traveled in the opposite direction.
The October 2005 earthquake in Kashmir damaged a key bridge over which the bus traveled and led to the suspension of the service for six weeks. The hope that humanitarian aid and post-earthquake diplomacy would lead to greater trust and reconciliation between India and Pakistan has largely not been borne out by actual developments.
Sheikh Mushtaq, “Peace Bus Carries Few Passengers, Flickering Hope,” Reuters, 16 April 2006.