Lahore is older than Delhi
One day before Islamabad's Foreign Minister expects Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri for talks on reviving the faltering process of détente between India and Pakistan in New Delhi, previously unknown terrorists tried to turn one of the two nations' few "symbols of friendship" into a "beacon of enmity" to transform. At least 66 people died a gruesome fire by fire early Monday morning after several bombs with fire accelerators exploded in two wagons of the “Samjhauta Express”.
Many of the victims are Pakistanis
Many of the victims are Pakistanis who wanted to return home after visiting a neighboring country. After the devastating fire, the police defused three more incendiary bombs in other wagons. It was the first attack on the "Samjhauta", one of the few land connections between the two nuclear powers. It has been driving since 1976 and is mostly used by poor Indians and Pakistanis to visit relatives or religious sites.
The train only resumed traffic on the route between the two countries in 2004 after Delhi stopped it at the end of 2001 because of a terror attack on the parliament building. The last few kilometers before the Wabag border post near the Pakistani city of Lahore, the train is escorted on the Indian side by mounted police.
But the approximately 600 passengers on the train were only 80 kilometers from the Indian capital New Delhi when two explosions near the town of Deewana triggered the disaster. Passengers immediately pulled the emergency brake. Many of the occupants in cars number ten and eleven for the cheapest class of travel had no chance of escape.
As with almost all trains in India, the windows of the wagons were barred with iron bars. "I do not understand how the bombers were able to smuggle the bombs onto the train," said Pakistan's Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed after his government condemned the attack. The “Samjhauta Express” had left the train station in Old Delhi. Shortly after the disaster, Indian media reported suspicions that the security measures at the train station must have failed. So far it is unclear who was responsible for the hellish attack.
"The perpetrators' approach is completely new," said J. S. Mahanwal, chief of forensic medicine in the state of Haryana, where the attack took place. "The perpetrators used incendiary devices and kerosene to ignite the fire." Islamic extremists, for example, who were responsible for the devastating attacks in the economic metropolis of Bombay in the summer of 2006 with around 200 dead, usually use explosives for their bloody attacks in India.
The first suspicion in such attacks in India usually falls on Islamists who want to prevent any rapprochement between the regime of Pakistan's military dictator General Pervez Musharraf and the Indian government of the Congress of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The security advisor to Delhi's government had only claimed at the end of last week that Islamic extremists based in Pakistan would, among other things, use India's stock market boom to finance their activities on the subcontinent.
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Kasuri arrives today with the express aim of reviving the slow détente between the two South Asian nuclear powers. Above all, the list of intended agreements includes an agreement designed to reduce the risk of a nuclear conflict. In addition, the opening of new consulates in both countries in the cities of Karachi and Bombay will be discussed.
Relaxation should continue
So far, those wishing to travel have had to travel to the respective capital cities in order to apply for their travel visa in a lengthy and complicated bureaucratic process. For the first time, both countries are also considering issuing entry permits to Indian and Pakistani citizens over 65 years of age upon arrival.
Kasuri hastily confirmed his travel plans yesterday. "Why shouldn't I drive?" He asked rhetorically. This time nothing should torpedo the attempt to get the détente between the two neighbors, who have been at war for 60 years, going again, which has stagnated since 2005.
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