Blasts that ripped through the Samjhauta Express will not affect the bilateral peace process between India and Pakistan, senior Indian officials said on Monday, but would definitely be discussed in the talks between the foreign ministers of the two neighbours.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri is to hold talks with India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi on Wednesday.
“The matter will certainly come up in the talks Kasuri will hold with EAM,” a senior Indian official said, adding that it was too early to say who was responsible for the blasts.
At least 66 people, many of them Pakistani citizens, were killed in the twin blasts on the train that set fire to two compartments and gutted them on Sunday.
“Everything between the two countries is an issue,” another official said. “But this will not derail the dialogue process, though we will be squirming a bit when they talk of security lapses,” the official added.
India, which is responsible for the security on the Lahore-bound train, is embarrassed by the blasts and was unlikely to blame any terrorist groups with Pakistani links, officials said.
Pakistan has not formally protested the security lapse, though several ministers and officials have pointed out that India was responsible for the passengers’ security.
The issue is expected to prominently figure during the first meeting of the bilateral joint monitoring mechanism against terrorism in Islamabad on March 6 and 7.
Pakistan described the dead-of-the-night attack as “horrendous”.
“We will not allow elements which want to sabotage the ongoing peace process and succeed in their nefarious designs,” President Pervez Musharraf said in a statement.
His Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz called his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on Monday to express his condolences.
According to an official statement from the MEA, Singh declared “India’s abhorrence for this heinous terrorist act and reaffirmed our commitment to doing everything possible to ensure that its perpetrators are punished. The focus at this time is on the humanitarian aspect.”
Kasuri is due to arrive in Delhi on Tuesday for the fifth meeting of the bilateral Joint Commission, which deals
with economic and social issues between India and Pakistan. His schedule remains unchanged.
The two countries will sign an agreement on ways to reduce nuclear accidents during Kasuri’s visit, said MEA spokesman Navtej Sarna.