By Vritika Mathur
The Thar Express refers to an international passenger train that runs between Karachi and Khokhrapar. It is operated weekly by the Pakistan Railways. This route further extends to Jodhpur and is called the Thar Link Express. It is the second rail link, after Samjhauta Express, between India and Pakistan. Passengers coming from Pakistan start the journey from Karachi up to Zero Point Railway station, which lies on the India-Pakistan border. On reaching, the passengers are made to clear customs and cross the border to Munabao located in Rajasthan. The route from Munabao continues till Jodhpur and is operated by the Indian railways.
On Tuesday, Islamabad confirmed an extension of the link between the two nations for three more years. The Government of Pakistan has agreed to extend the agreement of the Rail link between Munabao (India) Khokhrapar (Pakistan) for another three years from 1 February 2018 to 31 January 2021, said the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan (MoFA).
Symbol of cooperation
During the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, the rail tracks on which the Thar Link Express ran were bombed and destroyed by Pakistani fighter jets. After the end of the 1971 war, a peace accord – i.e. the Shimla Agreement – was signed to normalise relations. Based on this agreement, rail communication resumed, resulting in the running of cross-border trains again. The Thar Link Express is a continuation of the earlier known Sind Mail and was revived again in 2006 after 41 years. The two nations believed it is essential to promote travel facilities and took appropriate measures keeping a stronger bond in mind. According to a spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan, the rail link facilitates people-to-people contact and is helpful in improving relations between the two countries.
Need for stronger ties
This extension comes at a time of growing contention along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. It can be viewed as a considerable attempt to improve and maintain cordial relations. Over many decades, both the nations have been witness to a fair share of conflict and strained connections. These stem from common history as well as geographical proximity. Having fought three wars, India and Pakistan both have realised the vital need to improve upon their relationship. Many declarations have been signed in the past for the promotion of warm bilateral relations and the restoration of economic and trade alliances along with cultural exchanges. India and Pakistan have always seen travel facilitation as an important step to moving forward. The restoration and extension of the rail routes allow not only members from divided families to meet but also smoothens journeys to places of worship. Moreover, it is greatly beneficial in terms of trade and commercial activities.
There is no doubt that this new decision will help in easing tensions between the two nations. However, more serious efforts need to be made to help solidify friendship between India and Pakistan.
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