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India should boost bus, train services with Pakistan: Book

Friday April 15, 2011 08:19:21 AM, IANS

New Delhi: India must work to increase bus and train services with Pakistan even if Islamabad is hesitant, a group of scholars have said in a newly released book.

This is one of the many measures New Delhi must embark on if it seeks to expand all-round relations with neighbouring countries including China, say the scholars in the book, "India's Foreign Policy: Old Problems, New Challenges".

Published by Macmillan, the book has a collection of papers brought out by the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies to honour its two leading men, P.R. Chari and Maj Gen Dipankar Banerjee. Scholars D. Suba Chandran, N. Manoharan, P.G. Rajamohan, Vibhanshu Shekhar, Jabin T. Jacob, Raghav Sharma and Sandeep Bhardwaj say that it's important to scale up India-Pakistan links.

"The bus and train services (with Pakistan) need to be expanded in terms of frequency and the number of people they cater to," they say.

"Even if Pakistan is hesitant, India should take unilateral measures in allowing more Pakistanis to visit New Delhi and beyond.

"An increased inflow is automatically bound to increase the demand for more services from within Pakistan."

The writers said that the number of truck services between India and Pakistan should also be increased, and New Delhi should not wait for any reciprocity from Islamabad.

"Such an expansion should not be focussed only across the well-defined India-Pakistan border but also include the LoC (Line of Control dividing Kashmir)," they said.

"There is increasing demand to open the Jammu-Sialkot and Kargil-Skardu roads, and also open the LoC itself for trade.

"Given the political and emotional impact that opening the LoC will have for various sections inside Jammu and Kashmir, India should adopt a pro-active policy in improving physical connectivity with the other side.

"Such a process should also have the long-term objective of reopening the Silk Route, thus connecting Jammu and Kashmir with Tibet, Xinjiang and the rest of Central Asia."

Similarly, the scholars argue, improved road and rail links with Bangladesh were essential for the development of India's huge northeast.

In the case of Sri Lanka, they say, the proposed land-bridge linking Talaimannar and Dhanushkodi "would also offer tremendous scope for industrial linkages, especially between southern India and Sri Lanka".

The scholars have demanded a trans-border bus service to connect Imphal in Manipur and Mandalay in Myanmar via the Moreh-Tamu border post.

The book says that India's connectivity with its neighbouring countries and regions has actually declined since 1947, when the British Raj ended.

"Following the conflict of 1962, India and China have still not managed to shed their mistrust and continue to allow little movement of either people or goods across their borders."

The book goes on: "Hardened mindsets, especially among the respective bureaucracies, are also in evidence with respect to Pakistan where despite the composite dialogue, improving physical connectivity between the two countries continues to be making slow progress."

Lack of physical connectivity, say the scholars, has meant that there has been little people-to-people contact in the South Asian region and between this region and other parts of Asia.

Consequently, the countries of the region continue to have an incomplete, often distorted, understanding of each other. 







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