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India opens rail link to Kashmir in bid to bring a sense of unity - Independent, UK

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  • Zafar Khan
    India opens rail link to Kashmir in bid to bring a sense of unity By Justin Huggler in Delhi 14 April 2005
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 14, 2005
      India opens rail link to Kashmir in bid to bring a
      sense of unity
      By Justin Huggler in Delhi
      14 April 2005


      India has opened the first stage of a spectacular
      railway that will connect Indian-administered Kashmir
      with the rest of the country.

      When finished, the line will cross the vast barriers
      of the Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountains, include
      a tunnel six miles long through the mountains, and a
      mile-long bridge 1,300ft high over Chenab river. The
      first section, which does not even cross the higher
      mountains, already includes 158 bridges and 20

      India is desperate to make Kashmir feel a part of
      India. Opening the first section, from Jammu to
      Udhampur, the Indian Prime Minister, Manmoan Singh
      said it was "yet another step to strengthen the
      relations between India and the people of Kashmir".
      Despite being ruled by India for more than 50 years,
      most Kashmiris do not view themselves as Indians. They
      refer to leaving their valley and heading south as
      "going to India".

      Last week, the first bus service started between
      Indian and Pakistani Kashmir. India and Pakistan may
      be in the midst of their most fruitful peace talks in
      years, but they are still locked in rivalry over
      Kashmir. Although most Kashmiris want independence,
      India and Pakistan are unwilling to stop claiming

      Last week Kashmiris were glued to televisions,
      watching the India-Pakistan cricket series. But in
      Indian Kashmir, they were all cheering on Pakistan.

      Which is where the railway comes in for India. Few
      things have united the vast and disparate land of
      India as effectively as its extraordinary railways,
      built under British colonial rule. You can get almost
      anywhere in India by train, from Assam in the
      north-east to Kerala in the south.

      To a large extent, the railway has given India a sense
      of unity. Now the government is hoping it can bring
      the same to Kashmir.

      Part of Kashmiris' sense of isolation lies in the
      woeful infrastructure India has built there. The
      Kashmir Valley is connected to India by a road, and
      when it was blocked by snow this year the valley was
      cut off for days. Electricity was cut too, and Kashmir
      ran short of fuel for heating in its worst winter for

      But with daily killings, reports of Indian security
      forces torturing detainees, and thousands of Kashmiris
      disappearing after being detained, the chances are
      that it will take more than a train to win Kashmiri
      hearts and minds.

      More about Kashmir Dispute at:

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