Pakistan on Thursday suspended the Samjhauta Express train service that links the country with India, amid rising hostilities between the countries after New Delhi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, Reuters reported.
“We have decided to shut down Samjhauta Express,” Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed was quoted as saying by Reuters. “As long as I am railways minister, Samjhauta Express can’t operate,” he added.
Pakistan had stopped the train at Wagah border citing security concerns and passengers coming from Lahore were stranded briefly, PTI reported. The Indian crew had reportedly moved the train from Wagah to Attari shortly.
“When we received the information from the Pakistani authorities at around 2:14 pm, we assured them that there are no security concerns and the train should come here,” an unidentified senior railway official told PTI. “However, we also told them that if necessary an Indian crew and guard will escort the train to Attari.”
However, railway officials in India said the train service has not been suspended. “It will run,” Northern Railway spokesperson Deepak Kumar told PTI. “Pakistan authorities have raised some concerns with regards to security for crew and guard of the Samjhauta Express. We have told them that the situation is normal on this side.”
This development came a day after Pakistan decided to downgrade diplomatic relations with India and suspend bilateral trade. Islamabad also expelled India’s envoy and said it will not send its own envoy to New Delhi. India on Thursday said Pakistan’s decision was meant to present an “alarming picture” of the bilateral ties to the international community. India reiterated that its decisions related to Article 370 were its “internal affair” and urged Pakistan to review its measures so that “normal channels for diplomatic communications are preserved”.
The Samjhauta Express service began in 1976 under the Simla Agreement, which settled the 1971 war between India and Pakistan. It has six sleeper coaches and an AC 3-tier coach, and runs between Lahore and Delhi. It leaves from Delhi on Wednesdays and Sundays. The train departs on Mondays and Thursdays from Lahore.
Meanwhile, Pakistan on Thursday clarified that it has neither closed its airspace for India nor re-routed any Indian flight. “There has been no change to the notice to airmen (NOTAM) and all flights are being operated as per schedule issued earlier,” Civil Aviation Authority Pakistan spokesperson Mujtaba Baig told PTI. The clarification came after a few media reports said Pakistan had closed down a couple of routes for Indian flights.