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Lahore-Amritsar bus arrives in India
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January 20, 2006 12:57 IST
Last Updated: January 20, 2006 18:35 IST

In yet another historic step, India and Pakistan Friday opened the third road link between the two countries as the first Lahore-Amritsar bus crossed the Joint Check Post at the Indo-Pak border in Wagah.

The bus was expected to cross JCP at around 10 am as it was scheduled to depart from Lahore [Images] at 9 am, but it arrived at 11.30 am with 26 passengers, most of them stated to be officials.

The Pakistani bus named 'Dosti' (Friendship) will arrive in Amritsar [Images] every Friday and return the following day and the Indian bus 'Punj Aab' (named after five rivers in the state) go from Amritsar every Tuesday returning on Wednesday.

The trial run on the Amritsar-Lahore bus route by India and Pakistan had been completed in December.

A Punjab Roadways bus had conducted trial run on December 11 and the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation had undertaken its trial from Lahore on December 13.

Both buses returned to their respective destinations the following day. The link between Amritsar and Lahore is the fourth road-rail link between India and Pakistan.

Two road links operational earlier were the Delhi-Lahore and Srinagar-Muzarfarabad while the only rail link open between two countries is between Lahore and Attari.

Two more road and rail links are expected to become operational in February when the Munnabao-Khokrapar train and Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus services would start.

"Our government has already initiated efforts with the Indian government to set up a visa counter at Wagah border so that maximum number of passengers can avail the bus service," Pakistan Ministry of Communication Joint Secretary Firdosh Alam, leading the delegation said.

He said more and more people of India and Pakistan would gradually travel on the bus and "improve government-level ties besides creating new relations between the masses of two nations".

It would "benefit our Sikh brothers" as they would be able to come to Pakistan to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of the founder of Sikhism Nanak Dev in Lahore, and other historic shrines, Alam said.

"There is a lot of enthusiasm among the masses in Pakistan since they are keen to travel on this bus to visit India. I hope this process continues to bridge the gap between the neighbours," Anwar Sajid ofthe Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation said.

Well-known Pakistani singer Reshma, who was on the bus along with her troupe, said, "I had planned to come to India by air, but I got my ticket cancelled when I learnt this is the first time in the history of India and Pakistan that a Lahore-Amritsar bus service is being started from today."

She also gave an impromptu rendition of some couplets of Sufi songs that left the motley assemblage, including the media, spellbound. Reshma said, "We have suffered the taste of separation. Now we are unable to bear any more. The Pakistani masses have a deep regard for Indians who will always be welcomed on our soil."

She also thanked Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] for the "wonderful job of holding a dialogue with the Indian government as it has paved the way for people of both nations to come closer".

The two governments had earlier launched the bus services 'Sada-e-Sarhad' from New Delhi to Lahore and 'Karvan-e-Aman' from Srinagar [Images] to Muzaffarabad.

Sada-e-Sarhad was started on February 20, 1999, by then prime minister A B Vajpayee and Karvan-e-Aman was flagged off by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi [Images] on April 7, 2005.

The Amritsar-Lahore bus is scheduled to start plying on January 24 and will return on January 25.

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