Bomb explodes on historic Kashmir bus route

April 6, 2005

Map of Kashmir showing marked territory disputes.

A bomb, injuring three people, exploded on a new bus service route between the Indian and Pakistani sides of the Kashmir border. Two other bombs on the route were found and defused. A replacement bus is scheduled for an inaugural run this Thursday.

Threats of violence against passengers, and attacks on the bus on the inaugural trip, were issued by Muslim militants.

The bombs were found on a section of highway between Srinigar, in Indian-controlled Kashmir, and Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. The defused explosives weighed more than 60 kilograms each.

No civilians have traveled this route since 1947, when India and Pakistan won independence from Britain. The Kashmir territory has been under dispute by India and Pakistan since that time, with China joining the dispute in 1962 when it took control of a region along the eastern border.

The bus link is seen as a major step toward healing the hostilities between India and Pakistan by allowing families, separated for decades during the dispute, to re-unite.

Since 1989, a handful of Islamic militant groups have fought for Kashmir to become independent or to merge with predominantly Muslim Pakistan. With the bus route opening coming on the top of other so-called "confidence-building" moves between Pakistan and India, the militants apparently feel their movement is under threat.

Bharat Karnad, an analyst with New Delhi think-tank Center for Policy Research, stated: "Once people get their free access and they can freely move from one territory to another, meet the families and so on, the great incentive and motivation is gone to risk their lives to fight for some notion of jihad that some groups may propound."

Most of the 24 passengers expected to take the maiden voyage, officials say, are in protective custody because of threats made by some of the militant groups against them and their families.