3 December 2003
The Times of India
Musharraf warms to Kashmir bus, Sindh train
By Siddharth Varadarajan
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
New Delhi: Hot on the heels of Monday’s successful air-links talks, India has proposed December 18 and 19 as the dates for technical-level discussions with Pakistan on the resumption of the Samjhauta Express. And, in another intimation of the continuing thaw in bilateral relations, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf signalled his readiness to move forward on India’s proposal for a Kashmir bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and the reopening of the old train line between Khokhrapar in Sindh and Munabao in Rajasthan.
The Samjhauta Express, which linked Delhi to Lahore, was suspended by India in the wake of the terrorist attack on parliament in December 2001.
In a phone-in interview on BBC radio on Monday, Gen Musharraf told a caller from Larkana, Sindh, that he was “fully aware that the transport link through Khokhrapar is required..by the grace of Allah, we will be starting that’’. He also told a caller from Srinagar, “So far as the bus is concerned, we have agreed that the bus between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad would run.’’
Significantly, he did not refer to Pakistan’s earlier demand that passengers on the proposed bus could only travel with UN-provided documents.
Among the other proposals he made on Monday was one on mutual troop withdrawal from Jammu and Kashmir, including PoK. “If (India is) ready to remove their seven lakhs troops (from Kashmir), we will remove our 50,000 troops tomorrow,’’ he told a caller.