News Desk |
Pakistan and India have agreed on 80% of the modalities to finalize the draft agreement for the Kartarpur Corridor – a step that will ensure that the corridor is operational in November 2019, given the historic importance of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
On Sunday, the second round of talks between Pakistan and India officials on the Kartarpur Corridor initiative held at Wagah border and ended on a positive note.
The Pakistani delegation was headed by Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal, who is also the Director General for South Asia and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, while New Delhi’s delegation was headed by Indian Foreign Affairs Joint Secretary Anil Malik.
“The two countries have reached a consensus on 80% [of the issues] and beyond. The rest of the issues shall be addressed in the upcoming talks,” the spokesperson said at a news briefing after the talks. Dr Faisal told reporters that the further details would be provided after a final agreement was reached.
The Indian officials also sought permission to allow 10,000 pilgrims on special occasions. They said there should be no restrictions on the pilgrims in terms of their faith.
Reportedly, an English daily said, Islamabad has agreed to New Delhi delegation’s request to allow visa-free travel for Indian passport holders and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cardholders every day. The paper added that Pakistan has also given the nod to permitting 5,000 pilgrims to visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara each day and they will be allowed to travel as individuals or in groups on foot.
The Pakistan officials highlighted the infrastructural constraints in the area and told the other side that many of the Indian proposals could be accommodated in phases.
Both sides have agreed to maintain a channel of communication and work towards finalization of the agreement. The technical teams will meet again to ensure seamless connectivity for the corridor is operational in time so that the pilgrimage can begin in November this year.
Indians Express Concerns over Flooding of Dera Baba Nanak
Meanwhile, the Indian delegation voiced concerns over the possible flooding of the Dera Baba Nanak and the adjoining areas on the Indian side as a result of earth filled embankment road or a causeway that was proposed to be built by Pakistan on their side.
While sharing details of the bridge being built on the Indian side, the Indian delegation urged that Islamabad should also build a bridge on the Pakistani side. The Indian side maintained that this would not only address the concerns about flooding, but also ensure smooth, hassle-free, all-weather pilgrimage to the holy shrine throughout the year.
Pakistan agreed in principle to build a bridge at the earliest.
Pending the construction of a bridge on the old Ravi creek in Pakistan on their territory, India offered to make interim arrangements for making the corridor operational in November 2019, given the historic importance of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
10,000 Pilgrims may Visit on Special Occasions
The Indian officials also sought permission to allow 10,000 pilgrims on special occasions. They said there should be no restrictions on the pilgrims in terms of their faith. Besides, they also requested arrangements for the distribution of Langar [food] and Prasad.
To honor the religious sentiments, the Pakistani authorities were asked to restore the land belonging to Gurudwara; the Pakistani side agreed to look into the issue.
The Indian delegation maintained that their government has built state of the art infrastructure which can handle over 15,000 pilgrims.
It will be completed by October 31 this year. The work on the 4-lane highway to the crossing point at the international boundary is progressing satisfactorily and is on schedule. It will be completed by the end of the coming September.
The Indian side said its government was confident that it would be ready to for commencing the pilgrimage through the Kartarpur Corridor on the auspicious occasion of the 550th birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
The security for the pilgrims was also discussed by the Indian delegation. The Indian officials expressed their concerns over “Individuals or organizations based in Pakistan who may try to disrupt the pilgrimage and misuse the opportunity to play with the sentiments of the pilgrims”.
Read more: Kartarpur Corridor: A new hope for peace
A dossier highlighting such concerns was handed over to Pakistan. Dr Faisal-led delegation assured the other side that all measures would be taken to ensure the security of the pilgrims. To honor the religious sentiments, the Pakistani authorities were asked to restore the land belonging to Gurudwara; the Pakistani side agreed to look into the issue.