India, Pakistan open Kashmir crossing

Third crossing opened to humanitarian aid; bridge rebuilt after 58 years.

kashmir bridge 298 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
kashmir bridge 298 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
India and Pakistan opened a third crossing at their disputed Kashmir frontier Saturday to exchange aid for victims of the devastating Oct. 8 earthquake - but no Kashmiri residents were allowed to cross. Both sides hope to let residents of divided Kashmir cross the line once logistics are settled in coming days, as part of an agreement between the two nuclear-armed rival countries to open select points along their heavily militarized frontier. India and Pakistan both claim all of the Himalayan territory of Kashmir, and have fought two wars over it since their independence from Britain in 1947. It remains divided between them. On Saturday, army and civilian officials from Pakistan handed over several dozen bags of blankets and clothing to their Indian counterparts at the Teethwal-Nauseri crossing, in exchange for hundreds of bags of rice and medicine from the Indian side. At a distance, Kashmiri villagers squatted on the rocky banks on both sides of the gushing river that divides the territory, sometimes waving at each other. "I wish I could have crossed over to see my relatives. This does not make sense," said Teethwal resident Abdul Qadeer. "I have no news of my brother and his children" who live in Pakistani Kashmir, Qadeer said. The opening there was originally scheduled for Nov. 10, but was delayed due to the construction of a footbridge spanning the river by Pakistani workers. The bridge was destroyed by Pakistani soldiers in 1947 when the two countries fought their first war over the Kashmir region after independence from Britain. It was never rebuilt. Officials of the two countries walked to the middle of the narrow, white metal bridge and shook hands before porters carrying sacks of rice and medicine made the crossing. The crossing point is about 220 kilometers (125 miles) north of Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir. India and Pakistan were nudged toward closer cooperation following the magnitude 7.6 quake that killed more than 87,000 people on both sides of the disputed border. They agreed on Oct. 30 to open five crossings and allow Kashmiris to cross over for reunions with relatives on the other side. Those plans were delayed in part because the two sides need to scrutinize lists of candidates, and India fears separatist Muslim militants may be among those trying to cross.