LAHORE: Islamabad and New Delhi have extended for three years the rail communication agreement between the two countries.

Diplomats of both the countries extended the agreement from January 19, 2016 to January 18, 2019, a railways official told The Nation.

The rail agreement was originally signed in Islamabad on June 28, 1976—then an effort to normalize relations between the both countries in light of Simla Agreement (July 2, 1972).

Following the rail agreement 1976, Islamabad and New Delhi resumed Samjhota Express (twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays). It was the only rail service between the two countries until the reopening of Thar Express in 2006 which was halted after 1947.

Thar Express connects Karachi to Jodhpur (India). Six kilometres apart, Munabao and Zero Point near Khokhrapar are the two last railway stations of the India-Pakistan border thus the train also called Munabao-Khoharapar train service.

Prior to 1965 the last Pakistani station was Khokhrapar, about 10 km from the border. When the new service (Thar Express) was started in 2006 Pakistan constructed a new station called Zero Point a few hundred meters from the border. That is where the immigration and customs checks are carried out now. Thar train does not stop at Khokhrapar now.

Before 1947, the Sind Mail used to travel to Ahmedabad from Karachi via Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Khokhrapar, Munabao, Barmer, Luni, Jodhpur, Pali, Marwar, Palanpur and Ahmedabad (India). The link was destroyed during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and revived on 18 February 2006.

The railways official who asked not to be quoted said the rail traffic between the two countries remained ineffective during past four decades though the agreement has great importance and enables Pak-India rail communication both in respect of goods and passenger traffic.

“Even India cancelled Samjhota Express many times in the name of security,” he said.

He viewed the rail traffic especially of freight could gain momentum in coming days as both the countries were inching towards normalizing relation these days.

“Yes, it depends upon the relation between the two countries. The railways of Pakistan and India could generate lot of revenue if the trade between the countries resumes,” he said when asked about the future of railways service between Pak and India. The official added the Pakistan Railways was reviving now as the number of locomotives in both in passenger and freight sector increased.

“The Railways is running six to eight freight trains per day now and the number was zero some two years back,” he said.