Guns and tourists: Aboard a doubtful India-Pakistan ‘friendship bus’


NEW DELHI (Reuters) – One Friday morning before dawn, a half-empty Volvo manager slipped out of New Delhi’s Ambedkar train depot underneath armed guard, a sirens of a military procession wailing.

Carrying a reduction of Indian and Pakistani tourists, a bus, emblazoned with a flags of both countries and a word ‘Sada-e-Sarhad’ (Call of a Frontier), is one of a few remaining ride links between a nuclear-armed neighbours, who clashed final month over a doubtful Kashmir segment in a dispute that dumbfounded universe powers.

But as Reuters found on a lapse outing on what is also famous as a ‘dosti (friendship) bus’, that runs daily solely Sundays between Delhi and a Pakistani city of Lahore, it is a absolute pitch of wish for improved family between a rivals, who notwithstanding their domestic differences share clever linguistic, informative and family ties.

After breakfast during a government-run grill on a highway where military sign off a grounds, passengers from both countries watch a Bollywood film on board, starring one of India’s many Muslim actors.

“Salman Khan is a Muslim, he is one of us,” pronounced Hilal Ahmad Mir, 36, a Kashmiri apple rancher and father of four.

The tour from his home in a south Kashmir hollow to Pakistan’s collateral Islamabad to revisit his hermit Hamid, should be reduction than 300 km (200 miles) by a many approach route, opposite a contested limit famous as a Line of Control.

But with a ongoing dispute creation that track effectively impossible, he is forced to take a extensive road around Delhi and Lahore, before eventually reaching Islamabad dual days later.

Still, he is upbeat.

“Pakistan creates it easy for Kashmiris to get a visa,” he said. “In some ways, Pakistan and India have a really good relationship. We have had a lot of damage. We wish friendship, not guns.”


India and Pakistan have thousands of years of common history. Delhi and Lahore’s sandstone forts and grand mosques were all assembled by a Mughal empire, and both countries were after partial of British colonial India.

When Britain gave adult control of a Indian subcontinent in 1947, it fast partitioned it into Hindu-majority India and Islamic Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands died in racial carnage and millions some-more became refugees.

Relations between a dual countries have been stretched ever since. They have fought 3 wars, dual of them over a Muslim-majority Kashmir segment that both explain in full though order in part. Last month, they clashed over a self-murder conflict on an Indian paramilitary procession in Kashmir by Pakistani militants.

In an try to say tighten links to Indian-administered Kashmir, Pakistan mostly approves visas for a Muslim-majority race on a same day.

    For a immeasurable infancy of people in both countries, however, arranging a visa to revisit to a other side is a official slight that mostly takes as prolonged as 3 months, according to half a dozen of a bus’s passengers.

“My family is divided: my wife’s side is in India, my side in Pakistan,” pronounced Shoaib Mohammed, a landowner from Karachi returning after a month in Delhi. “The visa slight takes during slightest 45 days and is mostly extended.”

Though a bus, inaugurated in 1999 by India’s then-prime apportion Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has been quickly dangling over a years, it ran undeviating by a final vital strife between a dual countries that erupted weeks after a launch.

Neither has it been cancelled over a tensions of a final month, nonetheless newcomer numbers forsaken into a singular digits, officials said, a testimony to a outrageous military operation to strengthen it.

Several armed military are always on house – one of whom on this outing snores on a behind seat, purloin on his lap. Dozens some-more retard off roads in Delhi and other vital towns, while a procession forward clears traffic.

But even but policing costs, a train loses money, according to a comparison Pakistani diplomat formed in New Delhi informed with a bus’s operations.

“Commercially, a train is a failure,” he said. “But family between a dual countries are so bad during a impulse conjunction side can means to cancel it.”


After lunch in another forlorn and heavily rhythmical highway restaurant, a train passes by Wagah-Attari, one of a few active limit crossings between India and Pakistan. It is best famous for an elaborate eve rite where high-kicking guards from both countries perform a choreographed slight during a purpose-built track that straddles a border.

Most days, only 100 people cranky in possibly direction, Indian and Pakistani limit officials said. Both times Reuters crossed a border, a slight took tighten to 3 hours, and a depot was forlorn with no other travellers in steer detached from those on a bus.

Mir, from Kashmir, is hold by Indian limit officials for 40 mins for questioning.

“Kashmiris are dangerous,” he laughed, as he returned to a bus.

Shortly before a eve rite begins, a train drives opposite a limit by a stadium, where hundreds of spectators from both countries bark their approval.

Slideshow (6 Images)

Passengers afterwards pass by near-identical Pakistani immigration checks.

On board, spirits are high as a train starts a final path to a centre of Lahore, about 20 km (12 miles) away.

“We have been visiting for a final 40 years and this time there were no problems for me as a normal visitor,” Mohammed said, of his revisit to Delhi when tensions were during their peak. “I didn’t feel any annoy opposite Pakistanis. Nothing.”

Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here