India on Wednesday unveiled 12 proposals aimed at normalising ties with nuclear neighbour and rival Pakistan.

The concessions include a resumption of sporting ties and the start of a bus service between Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir and Muzzafarabad, the capital of the Pakistani-zone.
  
Still, India made no mention of resuming dialogue with Pakistan over the fate of Kashmir, which Islamabad has sought.

“Addressing side issues cannot help restore peace in the subcontinent,” said Abd Al Gani Bhat, a moderate separatist and former chairman of Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC).
  
“Let us accept the stark political reality that the root cause of tension between India and Pakistan is the dispute on Kashmir,” Bhat told AFP. 

Diplomatic success
  
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan. Still, both countries have laid claim to the entire state, and have fought two of their three wars over the region.

“If the road opens it will not just connect the two capitals but also the hearts” 

Maqsud Ahmad

Last year, tensions mounted with hundreds of thousands of troops massed on either side of the India- Pakistan border. The situation was resolved through international mediation.

Analyst Shawkat Ahmad, a columnist in Srinagar, said India wanted to secure a diplomatic victory by giving the impression that it wanted peace with Islamabad, but at the same time sidelining the main issue of Kashmir.
  
“The 12 offers will be appreciated by the international community but eventually the two sides have to sit together to resolve the basic issue,” he said.
  
Still, families separated by the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border that splits Kashmir between India and Pakistan, welcomed the offer of a bus service linking the two Kashmir capitals. 

Road trip
  
The LoC has divided thousands of Kashmiri families who have to use lengthy routes to reach their relatives.

“It will be a dream come true for me and my family,” said engineer Abd al-Aziz, who works in Srinagar, while most of his relatives live in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. 
  
The 171km (107-mile) mountainous road between Srinagar and Muzzafarabad was closed in 1947 after the sub-continent was split by British rulers into India and Pakistan, although it is still used by officials of a small UN military force posted in the Indian and Pakistani zones of Kashmir.
  
“If the road opens it will not just connect the two capitals but also the hearts,” Aziz's cousin Maqsud Ahmad, who works at a state-owned radio station in Srinagar, told AFP. 

Kashmir has been the location of a bloody 14-year-old anti-Indian insurgency that has left more than 39,500 people dead. Separatists put the toll between 80,000 and 100,000.

They said it would take them days to get across the border as they had to travel to New Delhi, fly to Islamabad and then drive to Muzzafarabad. Even flights between India and Pakistan were stopped in early 2002 due to tensions between the two countries. 
 
Fighters shot

Kashmir has been the location of a bloody 14-year-old anti-Indian insurgency that has left more than 39,500 people dead. Separatists put the toll between 80,000 and 100,000.

Separately, Indian troops on Wednesday killed five Muslim rebels on the Indian-administered side of the border.

“The fighting erupted during a search operation launched by the Indian army in one of Budgam's villages,” an army spokesman said, adding some arms and ammunition were recovered from the scene.

In the northern Baramulla district, which borders Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Indian troops shot dead two other rebels who were members of the region's dominant group Hizb al-Mujahidiin, police said.