India, Pakistan ease Kashmir travel, trade

New Delhi, July 27: India and Pakistan Wednesday agreed to simplify travel procedures and increase the frequency of bus services for people of the divided Jammu and Kashmir.

This is among the Kashmir-related confidence building measures (CBMs) the two countries unveiled at a meeting between Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.

‘Cross-LoC travel would be expanded on both sides of the LoC (Line of Control – the de facto border that divides Jammu and Kashmir between the two countries),’ said a joint statement issued after the Khar-Krishna meeting.

According to the statement, travel across the divided Kashmir will now ‘include visits for tourism and religious pilgrimage’.

‘In this regard, the modalities will be worked out by both sides.’

Earlier, the bus service was only for families that separated after the 1947 war during which Pakistan occupied a portion of Jammu and Kashmir.

The two countries also decided that facilities, including waiting area, terminal and clearing procedures, would be streamlined at the crossing points for ‘smooth cross-LoC travel’.

The two sides also decided to relax travel permit conditions by having a system of six-month multiple entry.

The validity of the entry permit till now was for four weeks.

‘Application forms and requisite documentation in respect of travel across LoC will be exchanged by email between designated authorities of both sides. Such email transfer of application forms will be backed up by hard copies,’ the statement said.

This will expedite the travel applications processing time, which shall not be more than 45 days now.

The two sides also decided that the working group on cross-LoC trade will review the trading list with a view to further specifying permissible items.

‘The number of trading days stand enhanced from two to four days per week.’

IANS