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Natwar to take up bus services issue
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 15
External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh is expected to take up the issue of commencing Amritsar-Lahore and Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus services with the Pakistani authorities.

The External Affairs Minister gave this assurance to Mr M S Gill, Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab and former Chief Election Commissioner, who held a detailed discussion with the minister to point out the “step-motherly” treatment being meted out to Punjabis and Sikhs in particular.

Mr Gill told The Tribune that the External Affairs Minister was positive in his response. Mr Natwar Singh is expected to meet the Pakistan Foreign Minister in August.

“Today, Punjabis have to first come to Delhi, buy an expensive ticket, if available, and then travel all the way back to Amritsar to cross to Lahore, which is 15 miles away,” Mr Gill said in a letter to Mr Natwar Singh.

Lauding the government for starting a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffrabad in Kashmir, Kolkata and Dhaka, and the proposed bus service between Rajasthan and Sind, he said, “All this is welcome. But it is unfortunate that there is no bus service between the twin cities of Amritsar and Lahore.”

He said a bus service between these two cities would promote people-to-people contact, positive relations, tourism and trade between the two countries, especially Punjab, on both sides of the border.

On the issue of starting a bus service between Nankana Sahib and Amritsar, Mr Gill told The Tribune it was quite sad that the Union Home Ministry, acting as a “policeman”, issued visas twice a year to groups of persons to visit the birth place of Guru Nanak, which was the “Mecca” of the Sikhs.

While the government spent about Rs 200 crore for Haj and a substantial sum for the Amarnath yatra, he asked, “Can’t it provide a bus service between Amritsar and Nankana Sahib to enable the pilgrims to pay obeisance and return the same evening?”

He said starting a bus service to this holy place of the Sikhs, which is situated 30 km from Lahore, would go a long way in instilling goodwill among the people of the state.

The Rajya Sabha MP said the commencement of these bus services would meet the pending demands of the people of the state and promote goodwill, trade and employment on both sides of the border.
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