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J&K CM inaugurates rebuilt Aman Setu

Aman Setu was damaged by the October 8, 2005 earthquake when a mountain on the Pakistani side caved in.

india Updated: Feb 21, 2006 11:24 IST

The rebuilt Aman Setu bridge on the Line of Control (LoC) was inaugurated here on Monday by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who said trade on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route would start by late March.

Azad said there was not much enthusiasm among the people of Jammu and Kashmir to visit Pakistan-occupied Kashmir despite the start of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service linking both parts of the region in April last year.

"Opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road had been an emotional slogan whereas the reality is that 80 per cent of those who come here from (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) either want to extend their stay here or just don't want to go back," he said.

He said 440 people from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir had used the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service to visit their relatives on the Indian side while 391 people from Jammu and Kashmir had made the journey to Muzaffarabad.

Azad said a decision to allow trade through the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road was taken at a meeting of Indian and Pakistan officials on February 5 and trucks carrying goods would begin rolling by the end of March or early April.

Initially, the trade would be conducted through the Aman Setu bridge in the Kashmir Valley and through another route in the Poonch district of Jammu region, he said.

Aman Setu was damaged by the October 8, 2005 earthquake when a mountain on the Pakistani side caved in, destroying the bridge's piers and abutments and leading to its collapse.

It was rebuilt during the winter by engineers of the Indian Army, who completed the work in three months despite inclement weather.

Chief Minister Azad on Monday flew to Uri town in a helicopter, accompanied by Animal Husbandry Minister Taj Mohiuddin, who is the legislator from Uri constituency. They then travelled by road to the bridge, where they were received by a group of school children waving the national tricolour.

Lt Gen Deepak Kapoor, chief of the Indian Army's Northern Command, and Lt Gen SS Dhillon, head of 15 Corps, were present when Azad inaugurated the bridge.

First Published: Feb 21, 2006 11:24 IST