Brushing aside a strong objection by India, the luxury bus service between Pakistan and China was flagged off from Lahore on Tuesday. According to Pakistan-based Dawn News, the luxury bus service on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is being operated by the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation and Shuja Express.
The bus service started days after New Delhi termed it as “illegal and invalid”. Registering a strong protest, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said last week that the bus service would be “a violation of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
“So-called China-Pakistan 'Boundary Agreement' of 1963 is illegal and invalid, and has never been recognised by the Government of India. Therefore, any such bus service through Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir will be a violation of India's sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson had said.
The protest was, however, dismissed by Pakistan, which accused India of “misleading” the international community. The Foreign Office of Pakistan released a statement wherein it said that India’s claims cannot “change the facts of history”.
“We reject the Indian Ministry of External Affairs’ (MEA) purported protest and statement regarding bus service through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). India’s repeated regurgitation of claims over India-held Kashmir can neither change the facts of history nor the legality of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” read the statement.
Asserting that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is “disputed”, the statement further read that the “final status is to be determined through a democratic and impartial plebiscite to be held under the auspices of the United Nations”.
China had also downplayed the protests by India with country’s foreign ministry saying that “CPEC is an economic cooperation initiative which targets no third country”.
India is yet to react to the launch of the bus service despite its objection.
A report in Dawn News has said that a person would require a valid visa to embark on the 36-hour journey from Lahore to Kashgar in Xinjiang province of China. According to the report, one-way fare of the bus service is Rs 13,000 while the round trip costs Rs 23,000.