Now, that ideal of cooperation appears to have been as much a target as the scores of passengers who burned to death Monday in a fire that swept through two of the train's carriages as it headed toward the Pakistani border.
The blaze was apparently sparked by a pair of crude incendiary devices, prompting speculation that the disaster was the work of attackers bent on crippling India and Pakistan's halting steps toward peace, including a high-level meeting set for Tuesday between the archrivals.
``This is an act of sabotage,'' India's railway minister, Laloo Prasad, told reporters. ``This is an attempt to derail the improving relationship between India and Pakistan.''
Shivraj Patil, India's home minister, told reporters that police had collected enough clues to point to a possible culprit, but that the information was being withheld so it would not ``be misused.'' Five years ago this month, a deadly fire aboard a train in Gujarat state -- a blaze widely, but wrongly, blamed on Muslim arsonists -- ignited religious riots that left more than 1,000 people dead.
Indian media reported that two suitcases with un-detonated incendiary devices had been found; television footage showed at least one of the cases being blown up in a controlled explosion in a field near Dewana.
The devices, packed with bottles of flammable liquid, were designed more to start fires rather than explode, an official from India's home ministry told CNN-IBN television.
By mid-morning Monday, the charred remains of at least 66 people, some of them children, had been pulled from the two burned-out coaches, which sat near the village of Dewana, about 50 miles north of New Delhi, surrounded by dark-green wheat fields.
Most of the victims were Pakistanis, officials said. Relatives from the Indian side of the border milled about in grief at the site of the fire and outside the small hospital in the nearby town of Panipat, where blocks of ice were being hauled in to cool a morgue filled to overflowing.
``Never did we dream something like this would happen,'' said Fakhruddin Behlim, a resident of Rajasthan, whose 72-year-old sister was aboard one of the burned carriages.
In vain, Behlim scanned the short list of injured for his sister's name. What awaited him next was a grim pile of scorched belongings -- passports, clothes -- that police had culled to help family members identify the dead, some of whom were burned beyond recognition.