India and Pakistan on Sunday resumed dialogue over the Kartarpur corridor, which was hailed as a step forward in the relations between the two neighbours. Officials from India crossed the Wagah border to hold the second round of talks with their Pakistani counterparts to finalise modalities for the corridor and also discuss technical issues related to the project.
Key issues such as connectivity at 'Zero Point' and the number of pilgrims to be allowed through the corridor are also on the agenda.
Ahead of the talks, Pakistan said that the talks were proceeding "as promised" by its prime minister, Imran Khan. Dr Mohammad Faisal, Spokesperson of Pakistan's ministry of foreign affairs, said, "Pakistan is fully committed and cooperating to operationalise the Kartarpur Corridor. Work from our side is underway in an expeditious manner. More than 70 percent of the Gurudwara construction work has been completed. We hope to have a productive discussion with the Indian counterparts."
The Indian delegation was led by SCL Das, Joint Secretary (Internal Security) in Ministry of Home Affairs and Deepak Mittal, Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) in Ministry of External Affairs. According to sources, more than 20 Pakistani officials took part in the meeting.
— ANI (@ANI) July 14, 2019
Previously, the two countries were scheduled to meet on 2 April in Pakistan for the second round of talks. It was later postponed after India showed serious concerns about the appointment of "controversial elements" by Islamabad in a committee associated with the corridor.
However, ahead of the fresh dialogue on Sunday, Pakistan reconstituted its Sikh Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) list, dropping pro-Khalistani leader Gopal Singh Chawla's name from the Kartarpur project.
"The Federal Government (Federal Cabinet) has been pleased to re-constitute the Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC)," Pakistan said in an official statement, excluding Chawla from the panel.
CNN-News18 quoted Chawla as saying, "I have given sacrifices for the Kartarpur project. I am thankful to Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan that he is serious about opening the corridor. I am happy with Pakistan government's decision. I have no regret on being removed from the committee."
The other four Khalistani activisits whose names were removed from the panel are – Tara Singh, Besant Singh, Manendar Singh and Kuljeet Singh.
The key issues that will be discussed during the meet include connectivity at Zero Point and the number of pilgrims to be allowed through the Kartarpur corridor.
One of the main demand from India that is expected to be raised is the construction of a bridge by Pakistan in the creek area. India would also raise talks regarding the possible flooding of Dera Baba Nanak due to the construction of an embankment-filled road on the Pakistani side.
The other key issues on the table would be the number of pilgrims allowed to access the corridor, their unhindered movement and safety round the year, whether they travel alone or in groups, and whether they would travel by foot or avail transport.
India aims to spend Rs 500 crore to build the corridor. The money will be used for installing a high tech security and surveillance system to ensure the safety of pilgrims and creating an all-weather facility to cater to 10,000 pilgrims on special occasions and 5000 pilgrims on a daily basis, among other things.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's government has earmarked Rs 100 crore in the federal budget 2019-20 for the development of the corridor. The funds will be used for land acquisition and development of infrastructure of Kartarpur under Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for the next financial year 2019-20.
On 26 November, 2018, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh had 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, 125 kilomtres from Lahore.
The Kartarpur route along the India-Pakistan border is three kilometres away from Gurdaspur in Punjab. It lies in Pakistan's Narowal district across the river Ravi, about four km from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. Once opened, it would allow Sikh pilgrims direct access to the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan, where Guru Nanak Dev died in 1539.
Sources said that the work on the corridor is expected to be completed by 31 October, 2019, ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
The second round of talks on the corridor was announced after the re-election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The first round was held on 14 March on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border, during which issues like finalisation of the draft agreement between the two countries were discussed.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jul 14, 2019 13:16:05 IST