Samjhauta blast: India in the dock for lax security

India is hit by allegations that it failed to secure the ill-fated train, reports Nilova Roy Choudhary. Express your views hereHELPLINE | List of passengers who reach safe

india Updated: Feb 19, 2007 23:20 IST

An embarrassed Indian government, hit by allegations that it had failed to secure the Samjhauta Express, attempted to deflect suggestions on Monday of a possible security lapse, by saying its attention was focused on providing succour to victims of the 'tremendous humanitarian tragedy'.

Asked to comment on the security lapse, the spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, Navtej Sarna said, “I do not think this is the time for searching for headlines. It is a tremendous humanitarian tragedy. Let us keep our eye on that, let us try and bring succour to those who are injured and to the kin of those who are dead,” Sarna said, strongly condemning the blasts and conveying condolences to the victims of the “gruesome tragedy.”

The government was clearly on the back foot for failing to anticipate and stop such an incident on the ‘peace train’ to Pakistan on the eve of Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s visit to India.

Declining comment on the Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam’s statement that security on the train was India’s responsibility, Sarna, said, "the causes of the incident are being investigated. Government will make every effort to bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous act.”

Aslam, condemning the “act of terrorism” in which many Pakistanis lost their lives, said it was the responsibility of the Indian government to provide security for the train. "We expect the Indian government to conduct investigation into the incident and punish those responsible for this."

Neither the MEA nor the Prime Minister, however, called the incident an act of terrorism, stressing instead on the human 'tragedy'.

Expressing 'anguish and grief' at the loss of life, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the 'culprits will be caught'.

When asked, Sarna said, “Well there has been an explosion and it has resulted in a gruesome tragedy. I think you do not need any more classifications.”

A report with passport details of Pakistani nationals travelling by Train No. 4001 Delhi-Attari Express (called ‘link train of Samjhauta Express’) in which explosion occurred late Sunday has been sent to Islamabad for verification, Sarna said. A number of Pakistani nationals were among the 66 people killed, he said, many of them charred beyond recognition. The ongoing process of identifying the remains made it difficult to determine exactly how many Pakistanis died in the incident.

"Unfortunately, we do not have the break-up," Sarna said. "It is very difficult to ascertain the number of Pakistanis. The entire process is being carried out with the help of Pakistani authorities," Sarna said.

A team of four officials from the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi has reached Panipat to help in the identification process, while two Pakistan railway officials are due to reach Atari to assist other passengers who survived the blasts.

The Government was facilitating travel arrangements for relatives of those killed and injured in the blasts, including setting up a special visa camp in Lahore on Monday.

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First Published: Feb 19, 2007 09:21 IST