A week after a bridge at Zero Line on the India-Pakistan border at Dera Baba Nanak emerged as the latest bone of contention between the two countries on the Kartarpur corridor issue, New Delhi has proposed to Islamabad that the second round of meeting on the modalities could be held between July 11 and July 14.
Sources said the meeting, 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 and resolve outstanding technical issues related to alignment and infrastructure along the corridor.
So far, three rounds of technical-level discussions have been held at the experts’ level to try and finalise the alignment, crossing point and infrastructure.
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-the-art passenger terminal.
“More than 45% of work on the Indian side has been completed. It is targeted to complete the road by end of September and the passenger or pilgrim terminal by 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.
Besides, India has also asked Pakistan to permit and facilitate Nagar Kirtan to be organised by SGPC and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee at Gurdwara Nankana Sahib in July and then in October-November to mark the year-long celebrations of the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
Sources said India has also asked Pakistan to increase the number of pilgrims, under the 1974 bilateral Protocol, who visit religious shrines in Pakistan to 10,000 this year.
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 begun constructing one on its side, Pakistan is insisting on constructing 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 issue was discussed at a technical meeting held between officials of the two countries at the Attari-Wagah border on May 27. Sources said that despite the differences, Delhi is pushing for the meeting so that the corridor can be operationalised by November this year.