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India to seek 'e-linking' of Kashmir, PoK
Sumir Kaul in New Delhi
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April 22, 2007 17:01 IST

In a move aimed at facilitating movement across the Line of Control, India is likely to moot a proposal to Pakistan for 'e-linking' Srinagar and Muzaffarabad for quick clearance of documents of people traveling between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

This was discussed at a recent meeting held in New Delhi by the external affairs ministry to review progress on confidence-building measures initiated by the two countries, especially on Kashmir, informed sources said.

The proposal, which came from the Jammu and Kashmir government, will do away with cumbersome and time-consuming procedures under which applications for travel get delayed for months together, they said.

Under the proposal, which is being seriously discussed in the ministry, two nodal offices will be earmarked in Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and e-linked to each other. This will ensure that all applications are processed 'as quickly as possible,' the sources said.

This is also expected to do away with official wrangling and lengthy procedures, and travel permits could be issued within a few days rather than months, they said.

The proposal was discussed with Central security agencies, which gave their nod to it and even suggested a secure line for networking the two offices in Jammu and Kashmir and PoK.

The move is aimed at benefiting passengers of two bus services -- the Karvan-e-Aman connecting Srinagar with Muzaffarabad and the service between Poonch and Rawalakote -- as well as people crossing over on foot via Teetwal-Nauseri in the Kashmir Valley and Mendhar-Tatapani in Jammu region.            

Only 1,700 people from Jammu and Kashmir and 1,900 from PoK have used the Karvan-e-Aman since it began on April seven, 2005.

According to existing procedures, officials of the two sides meet once a month at Kaman post in Uri in north Kashmir and exchange documents of people who intend to travel across the LoC. It then takes months for them to get clearance.

One of five working groups set up after the second roundtable conference on Kashmir in Srinagar last year was asked by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to look into the issue of easy cross-border movement.

The group on 'strengthening relations across the Line of Control,' headed by former ambassador Hamid Ansari, looked into simplifying procedures for travel across the LoC, increasing goods traffic, expanding people-to-people contacts, including promotion of pilgrimage and group tourism, and opening new routes like Kargil-Skardu.

The group's recommendations, to be discussed in the third roundtable conference on Kashmir to be held in New Delhi on April 24, also favoured streamlining procedures for the movement of people across the LoC.

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