New Delhi, Nov. 25: Forty years of rust could soon give way to shining tracks, with India today announcing restoration of a rail link between Rajasthan and Sindh to add more steam to the peace process with Pakistan.
Foreign minister K. Natwar Singh said the link, suspended since 1965 after the Indo-Pak war, could resume from October next year. 'We hope to start the service on October 2, 2005,' he said.
Singh said railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav held discussions on the rail link between Khokhrapar in Sindh and Munabao in Rajasthan with his Pakistani counterpart Mian Shamim Haider and officials who were part of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's delegation. Aziz and his team have left for Islamabad after their two-day meeting with Indian leaders.
Singh said Laloo Prasad told the Pakistani side India was keen to see the rail link start from October. The visitors also agreed with the proposal and expressed keenness.
Officials here said technical teams from the two countries are scheduled to meet in Delhi between December 2 and 3 to discuss the proposed link. 'A final decision and the dates of when it will start running will only become clearer after the meeting,' a senior official said.
The two sides are also trying to sort out differences on the proposed Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service. Pakistan has also suggested other bus links, including one between Jammu and Sialkot.
Singh today assured Islamabad his country was committed to peace with its neighbour and there has been no 'slow down' on India's part.
'We have started a process to normalise relations with Pakistan. But the stress from the other side has been more on the outcome,' Singh told a news conference this evening. 'You cannot think of the outcome before the process is complete. Any attempt to do so will amount to putting the cart before the horse.'
The foreign minister said both sides needed to have 'patience, goodwill and trust'. Using banking jargon, he added: 'We need to turn our relations from trust-deficit to trust surplus. This is where statesmanship has an important role to play to take the process forward but by keeping the national interests in mind.'
Yesterday, the Pakistan Prime Minister had stressed on the need to reduce the 'trust deficit' between the neighbours.
'We are engaged in a sustained and comprehensive dialogue process from which we will not be deflected by transient developments and often contradictory pronouncements,' Singh said.
The foreign minister said the neighbours should develop their relations based on the Sino-India model. 'Why not have such a model for Indo-Pak relations' he asked, stressing that while the boundary issue was being discussed by the two countries, it had not come in the way of bilateral trade which would touch $12 billion by the end of the year.
'There is no reason why we cannot do the same thing with Pakistan since both countries have huge potential of significantly increasing co-operation in trade and benefiting from it,' Singh said.
'We believe that strong economic ties can lead to a satisfactory outcome to the political process,' he added.
The main reason for Singh's news conference was to highlight the Congress-led alliance's achievement on the foreign policy front in the six months it has been in power. He took credit for the improvement in India-US ties, better relations with neighbours and significant engagement with key world powers.