Samjhota Express fate lies with India
By Khawaja Naseer/i<>
LAHORE: The resumption of Samjhota Express will be a major breakthrough in the normalization of Indo-Pak relations, but the final decision rests with India, which is insisting on the partial restoration of rail links.
Federal Railways Minister Ghous Bux Mehar said this in an exclusive interview with Daily Times on Wednesday. He said India wanted to restart only freight services in contrast to Pakistan’s offer for the complete restoration of rail links.
The federal minister said the prime ministers of both the countries were corresponding with each other on the issue of rail links and as soon as the federal government sent a notification, the Samjhota Express would resume its operation. After suicide attacks on the Indian parliament in December 2002, India suspended the train’s operation and now after 17 months, the issue is in the limelight due to Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s offer for a dialogue with Pakistan.
The federal minister said it was India that stopped the Samjhota Express and interestingly the decision to resume the service was now to be taken by it.
When asked to comment on the possibility that train’s route would be extended and India would issue tickets for Lahore, Multan, Hyderabad, Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar and Bahawalpur while Pakistan would issue tickets for Bombay, Delhi, Kolkata, Amritsar, Hyderabad, Deccan and Attari, he said all the matters relating to ticketing and stops of the train would be finalized once India gave its nod. However, he said, “We (the Pakistan Railways) have made all the necessary arrangements.” About the Indian claim of outstanding freight charges from Pakistan, the federal minister said he did not know about the issue. “If there is any such matter, it will be resolved amicably through dialogue,” he added.
Sources said: “During the Samjhota negotiations between the representatives of the two countries in 2001, it was proposed that the train’s route should be extended up to Amritsar, but Pakistani side rejected the proposal. However, both sides agreed that the frequency of trains between the two countries would be increased.” On the other hand, during those days India blamed that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) was creating problems by sending its agents by the train. Before the suspension of its service, Indian intelligence agencies presented their reports that were later published in Indian newspapers.