The two countries take turns of six month each to use their rakes for the Samjhauta Express.
New Delhi: With no hope for Samjhauta Express starting any time soon, India has asked Pakistan to return its rake of the train that remains stationed in Wagah for the last five months now.
In a Note Verbale issued on December 17 to Pakistan, the ministry of external affairs has reminded them that now that the train has stopped running between Attari and Wagah since August 8, 2019, Pakistan should return the rake back to India. Sources in Pakistan government told this newspaper that the Note Verbale has been sent to Islamabad for response. “We have conveyed to Islamabad and have sought response from our government. It was a letter having lot of technicalities, hence, it needs to be responded appropriately addressing those technicalities,” said an official of the Pakistani government.
The two countries take turns of six month each to use their rakes for the Samjhauta Express. Pakistan rakes are used from January to June while Indian rakes are used from July to December. Earlier, the rakes were returned to the home country the same day or at the most on a delay of overnight, and this is the first time rake remains unreturned for five months. The Indian rake remains stranded in Pakistan after Islamabad cancelled the Samjhauta Express on August 8, three days after India announced abrogation of Article 370 scrapping special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Samjhauta Express, which started in July 1976 to improve people-to-people connect between the two countries after the Simla Agreement, has stopped whenever relations between India and Pakistan got strained.
The Samjhauta Express operates from Attari twice a week – Mondays and Thursdays. Trains from Delhi terminate at Attari from where the passengers change trains.
The Delhi-bound passengers from Pakistani side take the Indian train at Attari (on Sundays and Wednesdays) while those going to Pakistan shift to the Pakistan Railways train that is taken back by its crew through Wagah.
Prior to August 2019, the train services were suspended in February 2019 following India’s airstrike in Balakot.
On August 8, Pakistan stopped the Samjhauta Express at the Wagah border leaving nearly 117 passengers (76 Indians, 41 Pakistani) stranded. Citing security reasons, the Pakistani side refused to cross over to Attari. The train, that was scheduled to reach Attari at 12.30 pm finally arrived on the Indian side at 5.15 pm after Indian Railways sent its engine, crew and security to bring Samjhauta Express and passengers to Attari.