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India, Pakistan resume border links as tensions ease

29 January, 2013

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SRINAGAR: A cross-border bus service between India and Pakistan, suspended along with trade after deadly army clashes earlier this month, resumed on Monday in a sign of easing tensions.

Officials said 64 passengers from Pakistan crossed the Line of Control into India while 84 went in the other direction on the bus service from Poonch to Rawalakot. Cross-border trade, which had been encouraged in recent years as a means to improve strained relations, was also set to resume today (Tuesday) after being frozen for the last two weeks.

"We are assessing losses the traders suffered because they could not send perishable items across on time," Shant Manu, secretary for industries and commerce in Indian-held Kashmir, told AFP.

Ismail Khan, director-general of a government body that oversees trade and travel in Azad Kashmir, confirmed that trade would resume on Tuesday. "We closed it because of direct firing from the Indian side on the road where the goods trucks were passing. Now the firing has stopped, we will resume it," he said. The recent flare-up along the Line of Control saw a total of five soldiers killed, with fears that tensions between the two countries could escalate.

But a ceasefire agreement on January 16 between commanders in both armies has held. Politicians on both sides are seen as keen to avoid wrecking recent progress in their slow-moving peace process. The cross-border bus service from Poonch on the Indian side to Rawalakot on the Pakistan side began in 2005 to enable members of divided families in the region to meet each other.

Another bus service that departs from the Uri sector of Indian-held Kashmir to the Pakistani side has been suspended because of heavy snowfall in the area.

End.

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