Vol. 5 Num 289 Sun. March 20, 2005  

India to bar rebels from availing Kashmir bus

The Indian army, battling Islamic insurgents in disputed Kashmir, said Friday it would keep rebels from using a historic bus between the two zones of the divided Himalayan territory.

The warning came as the cross-border service was set to start April 7 between Srinagar in the Indian part of Kashmir and Muzaffarabad, capital of the Pakistani zone.

Indian army chief general J.J. Singh said soldiers in Kashmir were preparing plans to prevent travel by wanted insurgents between the two cities onboard the bus.

"We have given a great deal of thought and chalked out necessary preventive measures to check any such misuse," Singh said, adding that army engineers were also scouring the route for landmines planted during the first war between India and Pakistan.

"We expect the road to be safe for travel by the due date," he said of the 170-km route which winds through rugged terrain where bands of militants are believed to be holed up.

The inter-Kashmir bus service is the most dramatic gesture yet in the 14 month-old peace process between nuclear armed rivals India and Pakistan, coming after months of stalled negotiations.