Any person from any part of the country with or without a relative on the other side can now travel on the Srinangar-Muzaffarabad bus.
The Ministry of External affairs has done away with the tiresome procedure of verification and re-verification. Instead there will be a triple permit system which means a person with just 2 references from PoK can travel to and fro three times without renewing the documents.
The practical benefits of this are unclear -- apart from pilgrims, not too many Indians with no relatives in Pakistan travel there to begin with, let alone to the Pakistani side of the Line of Control in Kashmir; and it is unclear what sorts of "references" will be acceptable; and how liberal the Pakistani authorities will be in issuing permits -- but the move is symbolically important, and perhaps the first sign since last November's Mumbai attacks that the long-term goal of softer borders in the sub-continent remains in place. All well and good, but the move nevertheless testifies to a certain schizophrenia on the part of the Indian government: given that the move is significant primarily as a symbolic matter, it should have been better publicized than it has been -- absent publicity, it is difficult to see how the Indo-Pak peace process can derive benefit from this gesture, that, albeit the right one, seems to have been made when no-one was looking.