India cancels Samjhauta Express service after Pakistan suspends operations

Samjhauta Express train coming from Lahore, crossing Indo-Pakistan border. (PTI)

Days after Pakistan suspended the Samjhauta Express train service that runs between New Delhi and Lahore, India on Sunday followed suit by cancelling its operation as well, PTI reported. The decision was taken after Pakistan suspended operations on its side, the government said.

"In consequent to Pakistan’s decision to cancel Samjhauta Express 14607/14608 running between Lahore and Atari, the link express train number 14001/14002 running between Delhi and Atari also stands cancelled (sic)," PTI quoted Deepak Kumar, Chief Public Relations Officer of Northern Railway, as saying.

Islamabad had on Thursday announced it was suspending the bi-weekly Samjhauta train service connecting Lahore and Delhi as part of downgrading of diplomatic ties with India in response to the scrapping special status to Jammu & Kashmir.

Pakistan s minister for railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said the service would remain suspended indefinitely. Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Rasheed said the bogies of the Samjhauta Express would now be used for passengers travelling on the occasion of Eid. Till I am Railways minister, Samjhauta Express train service will not operate, he said.

The Samjhauta Express train returns to Attari railway station in Amritsar district on Thursday. Rana Simranjit Singh

Following the suspension, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had called it a "unilateral decision" and said, "We never asked for it and we regret this decision by Pakistan which is intended to feed the narrative that the relation between India and Pakistan have reached an alarming state."

Around 117 passengers coming to India from Pakistan aboard the Samjhauta Express were briefly stuck at the Wagah border Thursday after Pakistani railway officials conveyed to their Indian counterparts that the train would not enter the country. An engine was then sent to bring the train back to Attari.

Passengers stand with their luggage after alighting from the Samjhauta Express, in Attari on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. (AP Photo: Prabhjot Gill)

Two drivers and a guard were sent to Wagah on board an engine at 3 pm. They returned to Attari with the stranded passengers around 5 pm. Heavy security was deployed at the Attari station.

The developments come in the backdrop of the government s decision to revoke the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir and securing Parliament s approval for a Bill to bifurcate the state into two Union Territories Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature similar to Puducherry, and Ladakh without one like Chandigarh-through a Presidential order.