Some locals are hoping that the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad trade and transit route connecting the two parts of Kashmir across the Line of Control could be reopened in the coming months following the renewal of the ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan and moves to develop Kaman post into a major tourist attraction.
Kaman post is the first point on the national highway 1A on the Indian side of the LOC in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla district and served as a trade point on the Srinagar Muzaffarabad route before its suspension in 2019. After renewal of the 2003 ceasefire agreement in February this year, the Indian Army has renovated an old cafeteria at the Kaman post and also installed a 60 feet National Flag Pole. The post was named in 1956 in the memory of Lt. Col. Kaman Singh, the hero of ‘Thikal war’ in 1948 and a Mahavir Chakra awardee.
“The post is especially popular for its view across the Line of Control,” said defense spokesman Emron Musavi. He adds that Kaman Post was once popular for motivational tours organised by schools and colleges.
The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route was first thrown open in the year 2005 and was seen as one of the biggest Confidence Building Measures (CBM’s) between India and Pakistan. The route was made inoperative in April 2019 purportedly for some repair work but could not be reopened after relations between the two countries nosedived after abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories in August that year.
The Indian Army officials have spoken of plans to turn Kaman post into a major tourist attraction offering stunning views across the LoCs with accompanying tales of snipers shooting from pigeon hole bunkers at one of the most hostile boundaries between India and Pakistan.
The renovated cafeteria near Kaman bridge also known as ‘Aman Setu’ (bridge of peace) was thrown open a few days ago and is now being run by a local former army soldier. Hilal Turkey, chairman of Salamabad Cross LoC Trade termed the reopening of the cafeteria a good omen.
“After the ceasefire, this is a welcome step and the people are hopeful that once Covid-19 situation improves, the road will be thrown open for both trade and the bus service. This was the most hostile place; now it’s being revived again which gives all the traders a hope of trade and bus resumption.”
Turkey said that around 4,229 families have suffered due to the suspension of trade through two trading points of Uri-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot.
“We have suffered an annual loss of about ?40 crores due to trade suspension. Now we feel the ice is again melting between the two neighbouring countries,” Turkey added.
The developments have also made locals hopeful. “Many families could meet their family members after decades when Srinagar – Muzaffarabad road was opened 18 years ago. After its closure, hopes were crushed. Now, there is again a hope that this road will open again,” said Farooq Ahmad Shiekh whose relatives live at Muzaffarabad. He travelled many times to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) via Kaman.
“Though it’s premature to say anything when it comes to India-Pakistan relations, we have not lost hope,” Shiekh adds.
Some experts say that the renewal of the ceasefire agreement through back channel negotiations pointed to an effort towards improving relations, however, it would be too early to hope for a significant breakthrough given the fact that the two sides are currently sticking to their respective stands on Kashmir.