New Delhi will go in with “high expectations” and hope for a “positive response” from Islamabad when Indian and Pakistani officials meet on Sunday at Wagah to hold discussions on the Kartarpur corridor, sources have said.
The meeting comes amid differences between the two sides over a range of issues, including a bridge at Zero Line on the Indo-Pak border at Dera Baba Nanak.
Sources said the meeting, which is proposed to be held at the Attari-Wagah border on Pakistan’s side, would discuss the draft agreement on the modalities for movement of pilgrims along the Kartarpur corridor and resolve outstanding technical issues.
Some hope, differences many
After cancelling the talks in April this year over differences between the two sides over the Kartarpur corridor, India has taken a step forward to schedule a meeting with Pakistan and bridge the gap and expand the convergences. But, as things stand, the divergences are far too many, and both sides will have to strike compromises along the way. As of now, it seems that it’s a bridge too far.
So far, three rounds of technical-level discussions have been held to try and finalise the alignment, crossing point and infrastructure along the corridor.
Sources said that after the decision taken by the Cabinet on November 22, 2018, India is “expeditiously building the requisite infrastructure”, including a four-lane highway and a state-of-art passenger terminal.
“More than 45 per cent of work on the Indian side is completed. The target is to complete the road by September end and the passenger terminal by the end of October this year, in time to operationalise the Kartarpur corridor on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November,” the source said.
“The government’s effort is to ensure that pilgrims can visit the holy Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib easily and smoothly in a safe and secure manner throughout the year,” the source said. Sources said India has also asked Pakistan to increase the number of pilgrims allowed, under the 1974 bilateral protocol, to visit shrines in Pakistan for Guru Nanak Dev Jayanti. New Delhi has asked for this number to be increased to 10,000 for this year on account of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations, the sources said.
The two countries have had run-ins in the past over the corridor, including over pro-Khalistani faces in a committee set up by Pakistan and over Pakistan’s refusal to allow at least 5,000 visitors a day from India.
While India wants a bridge over the Zero Line and has already started constructing one on its side, Pakistan is insisting on a causeway, sources said. India is of the view that not building a bridge would lead to flooding of Indian areas during monsoon when the Ravi river overflows, the sources said.
The issue was discussed at a technical meeting between officials of the two countries at the Attari-Wagah border on May 27.
Sources said construction work at the site for the Passenger Terminal Complex at Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab is in full swing.
The construction work is being carried out by M/S Shapoorji & Pallonji Pvt Ltd under the supervision of the Land Ports Authority of India.
The terminal is being built on nearly 15 acres to cater to approximately 5,000 passengers per day. It will have comprehensive facilities to ensure smooth movement of pilgrims, including facilities for immigration and customs clearance. The complex will also have CCTV surveillance and adequate parking space for 10 buses, 250 cars, and 250 two-wheelers. More than Rs 500 crore is estimated to be spent for development of this complex.