On April 7, 2000, Ambassador McDonald was visiting the capital of Pakistan’s Kashmir Muzaffrabad. While there, he was invited to address a refugee camp consisting of 1,000 Indian Kashmiris who had fled across the Line of Control into Pakistan Kashmir for fear of their lives. It was a very poor camp because no United Nations Agencies at that time were allowed in either Indian or Pakistan Kashmir. After being briefed by the camp leaders, Ambassador McDonald was asked to speak about the work of IMTD.
During his talk, Ambassador McDonald was inspired with a new idea and proposed a ‘Peoples Bus’ designed to bring Kashmiris together for the first time since 1947.
He reminded the group how the ‘Politicians Bus,’ which had taken place a year before in 1999, when the Prime Minister of India took a bus from New Delhi to Lahore, Pakistan and met with the Prime Minister of Pakistan. They negotiated the Lahore Declaration which was designed to give Kashmiris more freedom. But, this declaration fell apart six months later.
The refugees were excited about the idea of a Peoples Bus. So McDonald returned to Washington, DC and began lecturing and talking about a Peoples Bus and his trips to India and Pakistan.
On April 7, 2005, the India and Pakistan governments agreed to a Peoples Bus. On that day, the Prime Minister of India and Sonya Ghandi, the head of the Congress Party, flew to Srinagar, Kashmir and welcomed the twenty Pakistani Kashmiris who had just crossed the rebuilt and renamed Peace Bridge and entered into Indian Kashmir for the first time since 1947.
On the front page of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal was a large photograph of the Pakistan Kashmiris entering Indian Kashmir.
The People’s Bus still runs.
This is the main ‘confidence building measure’ in the history of the conflict and is IMTD’s most important accomplishment in twenty-one years.