Srinagar (TIP): The governments of India and Pakistan on Saturday took a giant step in making the Line of Control (LoC) “a line on the map”, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had put it when cross-LoC travel between the two parts of Jammu and Kashmir became a reality a little over seven years ago.
The nod to ease cross-LoC travel and trade has brought happy tidings for the people of the state at a time when the LoC had once again begun showing signs of turning into the “line of confrontation”.
With cross-LoC travel to be expanded to include group visits for tourism and pilgrimage, travel would not remain restricted to the state’s divided families. “It opens new vistas for the people of the state who want to visit the other side of the LoC,” says Khalid Ahmad, who was on the first cross-LoC bus flagged off on April 7, 2005.
“There is a yearning among the people across the LoC to visit this part of Jammu and Kashmir. Many are plain curious and want to see what this part of Kashmir looks like,” says Ahmad.
Kashmiri Hindus have for long wanted to visit the Sharda Devi temple in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and have repeatedly urged the Centre to make it possible for them to visit the revered shrine. “It is a welcome step. It should have been done much earlier,” says RL Bhat, one of the trustees of the Sanjeeveni Sharda Kendra.
“The Sharda Peeth is an integral part of Kashmir. We should be directly allowed to visit the Sharda Devi temple from Handwara side, rather than being made to visit Muzzaffarabad, the capital of PoK,” he says.
Likewise, many from across the LoC who have seen the beauty of the Valley in Bollywood films or heard of it from their elders are keen to visit Jammu and Kashmir. Visiting the Sufi shrines and Hazratbal is also on many itineraries.
With both sides agreeing to facilitate speedy clearance of applications for travel with process time of 45 days, residents are upbeat. “Crossing for such visits will initially be from Chakothi-Uri and Rawalakot-Poonch crossing points (between April and October),” says the clause.
Spirits have also soared on the trade front. It has been agreed that the list of 21 permissible products for cross-LoC trade will be respected by both sides. Regular meetings between traders on both sides will be facilitated on a monthly basis. There is also a provision to upgrade the road and communication infrastructure.