Pakistan has finally agreed to explore the possibility of starting the Kargil-Skardu bus between Ladakh in India and the Northern Areas occupied by Pakistan. NDTV travelled to the border crossing near Kargil for a first-ever look at what this means for the locals and the army.For decades it has been a road to nowhere, ending at Army Post 43. Just 15 metres away from the forward bunker of Post 43 is a Pakistani post.
For the last three years India has proposed running a bus from Kargil to Skardu. Pakistan initially refused but has now promised to consider the request. Soldiers say opening the road will require little construction."In case we have to get this road functional, it involves a construction of approximately a kilometre of work," said Captain Amol Dhumal, Rajput Regiment.Restoring bondsBut until that is done, villagers from Hunderman near Post 43 earn a living from the land or working as porters for the Indian army. Until 1971 they worked for the Pakistan army. The people of Hunderman say life is better since the ceasefire of 2003. Everyone agrees that opening the road would transform their lives with shops, bus stations and frequent trips to relatives.Pakistan has always blocked the bus as it is sensitive to outsiders entering the Northern Areas around Skardu and Gilgit. But locals believe it is because of the poverty across."I think they are ashamed at the poverty across the LoC. That's why they don't open the LoC. Our relatives would be really happy if the LoC was opened for crossing," said Ghulam, Peon, PWD Labour Department.
For now Islamabad has taken a small step towards opening its most sensitive border. The elders have waited a lifetime and they now wonder whether their children will have to as well.
NDTV.com, Thursday, March 15, 2007