Another Indo-Pak road to reopen in April
A second road link across Kashmir is likely to reopen in April after nearly six long decades.
The road will connect Poonch in India's Jammu region with Rawalakot in Pakistani Kashmir.
It was closed after the first India-Pakistan conflict in the region in 1948.
Although only a 10-km stretch has to be built on the Indian side, it is an arduous task as the route has not been used for 57 years.
"The task involves pruning and cutting trees, bringing in fresh alignment and removing mines from fields," an official said. "Some private land is also to be acquired for the purpose," he added.
Customs and immigration points have to be built in the area that till two years ago witnessed intense exchanges of fire between Indian and Pakistani troops. There has been a ceasefire along the frontiers in Kashmir since November 2003.
Officials said that the route would be opened in the first week of April - a year after the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road became operational on April 7 last year, in the first major move to bring closer the people of divided Kashmir.
Almost each family living in Poonch has relatives across the Line of Control (LoC). And the people share a common language and culture.
"It takes three to four days for people in Poonch and Rajouri to reach Pakistan by the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route. From here it will take only a few hours," the official said.
The Indian Army, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and the civil administration have divided the task of readying the 10-km stretch between Poonch town and Chakan-da-Bagh, close to the border. This is expected to cost Rs 100 million.
The Public Works Department is preparing the first 1.5-km stretch from Poonch. The BRO will build the next 2.7-km and the Army will do the rest.
The Jammu and Kashmir government is building the customs and immigration facility and will be in charge of communications. The Poonch bus stand is getting a new look.
All this has given an impetus to economic activity in the mountainous and badly connected Poonch district that was reeling under militancy for over a decade.
Land prices along the Poonch-Rawalakot road have shot up, a radical change from earlier times when there were hardly any buyers.