Talks between the Indian and Pakistan delegation began on the Kartarpur Corridor after the team from India reached the Attari-Wagah border on Sunday morning. Heavy security was present at the border when the Indian delegation reached.
Ahead of the meeting, Dr Mohammad Faisal, Spokesperson of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan addressed the media at Wagah in Pakistan. "Pakistan is fully committed and cooperating to operationalise Kartarpur Corridor. More than 70% of Gurdwara's construction work is completed. We hope to have productive discussion today."
The meeting was earlier scheduled to take place in April but it was postponed as Pakistan had Gopal Singh Chawla as a member in their delegation. India had categorically expressed its displeasure over the appointment of Khalistani backer Chawla, who is known to be the right-hand man of 26/11 mastermind and UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed. After India mounted pressure they removed him to replace him with Ameer Singh, who is the brother of Khalistani backer Bishan Singh.
Details of Indian delegation present for the talks:
1. Sh S C L Das, Joint Secretary (IS-I), MHA
2. Dr. Deepak Mittal, Joint secretary (PAI), MHA
3. Sh Rajeev Singh Thakur, Joint secretary (Army), MoD
4. Sh Parag Jain, joint secretary, Cab. Sectt.
5. Sh Avi Prakash, Joint Director, IB
6. Sh Hussan Lal, secretary (PWD) Govt of Punjab.
7. Sh Maneesh Rastogi, Chief General Manager, NHAI.
Key issues such as connectivity at Zero Point and the number of pilgrims to be allowed through the Kartarpur corridor will be discussed on July 14 when Indian and Pakistani delegates hold a meeting on modalities related to the project, government sources said. They said India will also flag its concerns over the security aspect. Matters related to the modalities of the corridor, who can use the corridor and its facilities, will be discussed. Besides this, the documents required for movement of pilgrims, the number of people to be allowed would be on the meeting agenda, sources said.
Sources New Delhi said India has high expectations from the upcoming meeting and hoped that issues like connectivity at the Zero point and visit of large number of pilgrims on the special occasions will be discussed thoroughly. The project will allow easy access to Sikh pilgrims from India to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan, the final resting place of Guru Nanak. The sources said the work on a four-lane highway on the Indian side is in full swing.
The four-lane highway connecting the Zero Point of the Kartarpur Corridor up to National Highway-354 is being constructed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). Pakistan is constructing a two-lane highway. Officials said the work on the four-lane highway should be completed by September. The sources said India has urged Pakistan to build a similar bridge on its side that will provide safe and secure movement of the pilgrims and address concerns regarding flooding. The bridge is over a creek, of which the majority part falls in Pakistan.
Pakistan said it would build a mud-filled embankment, a move which would not only lead to flooding in areas on the Indian side but also pose a threat to the structure of the Indian bridge, the sources added. The creek floods during the monsoon when the Ravi river swells.
Another proposal put forth by Pakistan was to build a causeway, the sources said, adding that it was unacceptable to India as it would not provide an all-weather road. They said the construction work at the site of passenger terminal complex at Dera Baba Nanak in India is on full swing. The work has been planned to be completed by October 31 before the commemoration of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in November.
In November 2018, Pakistan agreed to set up the border-crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak, to Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district. Kartarpur is located in Pakistan's Narowal district, about four km from Dera Baba Nanak.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had on November 26 last year laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur district. Two days later, the Pakistani prime minister laid the foundation stone of the corridor in Narowal, around 125 km from Lahore.
(With PTI inputs)