Resume Cross-LoC Telephone

Most families divided by the Line of Control in Kashmir have not been united even nine years after India and Pakistan launched the cross-LoC bus service expressly for this purpose, terming the initiative as historic and a path-breaking Confidence Building Measure (CBM) in the region’s tortured history. A major reason the move has fallen far short of expectations is that tickets to the Karvaan-e-Amn do not come easy. The process of verification and clearance is too cumbersome and lengthy, and a source of discouragement for thousands of applicants on either side keen to see close relatives separated for decades. When it is not rare for the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad trip to have no passengers, and people find it much easier to take the Wagah route, cynicism about the bus service is bound to grow.

Kashmir’s divided families could stand to benefit immensely if telephone links across the LoC were restored. While the line from Pakistan-administered-Kashmir is functional, authorities on the Indian side of Kashmir seem in no mood to reciprocate by resuming the connection snapped in the early phase of militancy. On the contrary, people receiving calls from PaK invariably face inconvenience as intelligence operatives summon them to police stations for intense questioning.   Divided families on this side insist, and rightly, that restoring telephone links would prove to a powerful CBM.

The one-way bar makes no sense in the internet age when one has the world at ones finger tips. Authorities fear that restoring tele-ties would endanger state security. Elements who can pose a security threat use sophisticated equipment to communicate, and authorities, including intelligence agencies, know it well. Telephones, on the other hand, are used mostly by people who have no access to the internet and other advanced means of communication. Authorities must reconsider this restrictive policy, and allow outgoing calls to the other side of Kashmir as well. This would also create some confidence over the philosophy of constructive engagement the government claims to be keen on.