Pakistan derails Samjhauta Express

Islamabad: Continuing with its offensive, Pakistan suspended the Samjhauta Express train service on Thursday, a day after it snapped diplomatic ties with New Delhi.

The minister made the announcement even as passengers were waiting at the Lahore station to board the train to travel to India. At the Wagah border, the Pakistani crew stopped the train and refused to go any further.

They demanded that the Indian crew take over and drive it to Attari; after nearly three hours, an Indian team took over and the train started on its onward journey.

Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs said there would be no suspension of the train services from the Indian side. "India will not take any hasty decisions," they added.

The Samjhauta Express from both Lahore and Delhi comes to Attari. At Attari, Delhi-bound passengers coming from Lahore get on to an Indian train.

And Lahore-bound passengers board the Pakistani train that retraces its steps back to Wagah and then on to Lahore. On Thursday, the Samjhauta Express from Lahore did not reach Attari, but remained at Wagah on the Pakistan side.

Earlier in the day, India urged Pakistan to review its decision to downgrade diplomatic and trade ties, saying its decision on Kashmir was an internal affair and aimed at the state's development.

In a detailed response to Pakistan's actions, India also said: "The intention... is obviously to present an alarming picture to the world of our bilateral ties. The reasons cited by Pakistan are not supported by facts on the ground.

"Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi responded by saying that he was "Ready to review decision against India if New Delhi agrees to reconsider its actions on Kashmir." "Are they ready to review their decisions? If they do, we can also review our decisions.

Review will be on both sides. That is what the Shimla (agreement) says," Qureshi said.He also said that news reports about closure of Pakistani airspace was not true. "Pakistan has not closed its airspace…It is fake news," he said.

The Kartarpur initiative would also continue despite rising tensions, he added. "Our commitment on Kartarpur stands. We respect all religions and will not create hurdles in people-to-people contacts," he said.

He rejected India's assertion that the latest measures were taken for socio-economic development of the region. "Does this mean that for the last 70 years no development has been done in Kashmir," he asked.

By Sajjad Hussain

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