Kashmir Peace Bus Has Limited Impact

A bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, two Kashmiri cities on opposite sides of the Indian-Pakistani cease-fire line, was inaugurated in April 2005 as a “confidence-building measure.” But if the number of people actually crossing the border during the first year of the service is an indication, then there is still precious little confidence.

Only 600 Kashmiris from both side of the cease-fire line have been allowed to take the bus since April 7, 2005. The application process involves separate requests at a half-dozen Indian agencies. Those who get approved on the Indian side then must submit to a similarly stultifying process with agencies in Pakistan.

In the absence of real negotiations over the future of Kashmir, India has continued a massive military presence there—currently an estimated 600,000 Army and paramilitary personnel are fighting an insurgency that started in 1989. The Indian government estimates the total number of insurgents at between 900 and 1,400. But because they have acted like occupiers—razing homes and arresting young men arbitrarily—the Indian security forces have lost whatever popular goodwill they may once have commanded among the 10 million inhabitants of Indian-controlled Kashmir. (There are another 3 million people in the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir.)

The conflict has killed at least 65,000 people, mostly civilians. An additional 8,000 civilians have been listed as “disappeared.”

Scott Baldauf, “‘Confidence’ Measures Falter in Kashmir,” Christian Science Monitor, 25 July 2006.
Link: www.csmonitor.com/2006/0725/p06s02-wosc.html.