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|January 8, 1999||
Lahoris cheer and clap as Indian bus arrives
Hundreds of people cheered and clapped as the first bus service between India and Pakistan in more than 51 years arrived this evening in Lahore.
The trip was an uneventful one, said passengers, despite fears of violence by disgruntled elements on both sides of the border who oppose better relations between the neighbours.
"We were worried about violence, but it was peaceful all the way," said Gurjit Singh, Delhi Transport Corporation chairman. "We feel like we are coming home."
The DTC bus, carrying a team of Indian bureaucrats, entered Pakistan through the joint border check-post at Wagha in Punjab.
The 'dry run' between New Delhi and the check-post took exactly 12 hours. Lahore is just an hour's drive from Wagha.
The decision to link Delhi with Lahore via the Sher Shah Suri Road was taken at the talks between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharief at a meeting in New York last year.
This was the first trial run of the bus between the two cities. In October 1998, a trial run of a DTC bus was conducted from Delhi to Wagha.
According to officials, as soon as the bus from Lahore enters India, customs and immigration officials will check the passengers and their belongings. This task is expected to take an hour.
An Indian liaison officer will then board the bus and accompany it to New Delhi. He will be responsible for the comfort and security of the passengers. He will be equipped with a mobile phone to help him contact, if necessary, senior civil and police officials of the districts through which the bus will pass.
Besides Wagha, the halts earmarked by India are Kartarpur and Sirhind, both in Punjab, and Pipli in Haryana. Security arrangements will be made at these places too.
Pakistan will carry out a dry run after talks between officials of the two sides tomorrow.
Twice a week a DTC coach will run between the two cities. A bus from Lahore would operate on a similar schedule.
The two Indian coaches to be operated on this route are being designed and built at Bangalore. They will be 36-seater buses with air-conditioning as well as central heating, officials said.
Other facilities on the Indian coaches will be movies, a music system, and a telephone, to be made available from Wagha to Delhi on payment.
AP & UNI
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