Tight Security Wins Out Over People-to-People Contact in Divided Kashmir

Hopes that the earthquake that hit Kashmir (as well as Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province) in October 2005 would end the stalemate over the territory and move Pakistan and India closer to resolving their dispute have been dashed. An unprecedented opportunity has been missed. Mutual suspicion and entrenched attitudes made joint relief efforts politically impossible. Although the two governments agreed to open five border crossings in the wake of the disaster, it remained a symbolic decision. Likewise, the June 2006 launching of a second bus service connecting Rawalakot in Pakistani Kashmir and Poonch in Indian Kashmir (which was added to the bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad established in April 2005) did not produce any breakthroughs. The exciting idea of greater people-to-people contact has given way to a reality in which those wanting to travel face a stultifying bureaucracy, stringent security measures, and limited available seating.