From all accounts, it is clear that the explosion that struck the Samjhauta Express was a terrorist strike, obviously aimed at derailing the peace talks between India and Pakistan. Suitcases packed with unexploded crude bombs and bottles of gasoline were reportedly found in cars not hit in the attack, which suggests that an identical explosive device probably set off the blasts.
There are reports that an outfit like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, or Army of the Pure, a Pakistan-based Islamic militant group, or even the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) could be behind the blasts. The country is still dangerously unprepared to prevent such terror strikes and the tragic loss of life and economic havoc they leave in their wake. Despite many security precautions that have been proposed, serious vulnerabilities remain ominously exposed.
Terrorists have a chillingly vast menu of soft targets to choose from, be it water and food supplies, chemical plants, energy grids and pipelines, bridges, tunnels, or trains that we depend upon in our everyday lives. To many people, particularly in Kashmir, who were disappointed with the progress made in establishing a bus link between the two parts of the divided territory, the rail connection between the two countries was a big consolation. Targeting it was evidently an attempt to derail the bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan that has picked up steam of late.
The Pakistani Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, has reportedly decided to go ahead with his visit to New Delhi for scheduled talks. Not that anyone expects these talks to lead to any significant breakthroughs, if the past is any guide, especially since the Musharraf administration has to address its domestic constituency and demonstrate that it has not changed direction in negotiating with India.
But that said, talking about talks is not enough as is evident from the several rounds of talks that have been held over the years. So this time round, if real progress is to be made, Islamabad would do well to go beyond making conciliatory gestures and not let terrorist outrages, as happened yesterday, pave the way for highlighting customary grouses, which invariably happens in Indo-Pak parleys. It is a welcome sign that Islamabad has reportedly said it won’t let anyone stand in the way of the peace process