Senior officials from Pakistan and India will meet this week to discuss confidence building measures that seek to remove hurdles in travel and trade across the Line of Control (LoC).
A foreign ministry spokesperson said that the meeting of the Pakistan-India Working Group on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), regarding the longstanding Kashmir dispute, will be held in Islamabad on July 19.
The Pakistani delegation will be headed by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General (South Asia) Zehra Akbari while the Indian side will be led by Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary (PAI) YK Sinha, the spokesman said.
He went on to add the joint working group was meeting in pursuance of decisions taken during the recently-held foreign secretary level talks in New Delhi on peace and security. According to sources, Pakistan will push for simplifying the travel procedures for people living on both sides of the LoC through bus services.
At present, two busses service people between the LoC: Muzaffarabad-Srinagar and Rawalakot-Poonch.
However, Kashmiris intending to travel across the divided territory face a daunting task to receive a travel permit. The Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service was launched in April 2005 as part of efforts by the two neighbours to create favourable conditions for a resolution of the decades-old Kashmir issue.
In January 2006, both countries agreed to start another bus service, linking Poonch and Rawalakot, which was launched in June of that year. By 2008, the two routes were running every week.
“We want to make the procedure simple so that people don’t have to go through with the difficulties in obtaining the travel permit,” said the official.
“Otherwise the very purpose of this arrangement will fail,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2012.