Islamabad/New Delhi: Pakistan has closed the Samjhauta Express train service with India, Federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Thursday, a day after Islamabad downgraded the diplomatic ties with New Delhi.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Rasheed said the bogies of the Samjhauta Express will now be used for passengers travelling on the occasion of Eid.
"Till I am Railways minister, Samjhauta Express train service will not operate," he was quoted as saying by Geo TV.
The Samjhauta Express train service was suspended earlier this year, due to escalating tensions between the two neighbouring countries. However, the service was later resumed.
The Samjhauta Express, named after the Hindi word for "agreement", comprises six sleeper coaches and an AC 3-tier coach. The train service was started on July 22, 1976 under the Simla Agreement that settled the 1971 war between the two nations.
On the Indian side, the train runs from Delhi to Attari and from Lahore to Wagah on the Pakistan side.
In New Delhi, Indian crew members and guards escorted the Samjhauta Express from the Wagah border to Attari after Pakistan authorities stopped the train on their side, sources said.
They said that Pakistan had stopped the train at Wagah border claiming security concerns, and passengers were stranded briefly.
"When we received the information from the Pakistani authorities at around 2:14 p.m, we assured them that there are no security concerns and the train should come here. However, we also told them that if necessary an Indian crew and guard will escort the train to Attari," a senior railway official told PTI.
As per the latest information, the Indian crew had moved the train from Wagah and it is expected to arrive at Attari shortly.
The move comes after Pakistan downgraded diplomatic tie with India after the Narendra Modi government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 and bifurcate the state of Jammu & Kashmir into two Union Territories.
Article 370 India’s Internal Affair: MEA
Reacting strongly to this, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Thursday that Pakistan's announcement to downgrade diplomatic ties with it was an attempt to present an “alarming picture to the world about relations between the two countries.”
The MEA said the Constitution was, is and would always be a sovereign matter and recent developments pertaining to Article 370 were entirely India's “internal affair”.
The ministry said India regretted the steps announced by Pakistan on Wednesday, and urged Islamabad to review them so that normal channels for diplomatic communications are preserved.
"Recent decisions by the government and Parliament of India are driven by a commitment to extend to Jammu and Kashmir opportunities for development that were earlier denied by a temporary provision in the Constitution," the ministry said.