Amid tension between India and Pakistan, there are concerns in Punjab over the fate of a scheduled bilateral meeting between India and Pakistan in New Delhi to finalise the draft agreement for Kartarpur Corridor. The meeting is scheduled for March 13.
There is no official communication from Centre on whether the meeting is still on or not, with concerns mounting that if the bilateral meeting is postponed or cancelled, it may delay the corridor project. The project holds importance in the 550th anniversary year of first Sikh Guru. “We reckon if it is not done now, it may not be done at all,” said a government functionary on condition of anonymity.
Although Punjab is a stakeholder in the project as the corridor would open in the state, the state government has not heard anything from Centre on whether it would be invited for the meeting or not. “We do not know anything. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had written to the Centre to raise several issues pertaining to the Corridor with Government of Pakistan. Now, the ball rests in GOI’s court to take up those issues,” said a senior functionary of the state government. Amarinder had sought visa-free entry to the gurdwara, khulle-darshan for all irrespective of their faith, and multiple entry for the devotees.
The official added that Punjab does not need to attend the meeting as it has already flagged its issues, but “if they invite us then we will go”. “As of today, the meeting is on. This is what we are hearing. It is on course. We do not know what emerges after this,” he said. Punjab Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh told The Indian Express, “I do not know anything about that meeting. I have not been invited or have communication from Government of India on the issue.”
Punjab Jails and Cooperatives Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who is also a legislator from Dera Baba Nanak, from where the Corridor would link to Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara from Indian side, told The Indian Express that the work on the Corridor was continuing on the other side of the border. Randhawa said, “It is visible from this side only that they are completing the work at the fast pace. We are also doing it. We have already received a grant of Rs 8 crore from the Government of Punjab for constructing an entrance plaza. We are soon going to start this.”
During Amarinder’s recent visit to border areas to boost the morale of forces, the Chief Minister had expressed his satisfaction at the work on the corridor on both sides. About the meeting on March 13, Dr Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had tweeted on February 8: “In a spirit of constructive engagement #Pakistan has proposed to India that the Pakistan delegation may visit #India on 13 March followed by the return visit of the Indian delegation to Pakistan on 28 March to finalise the draft agreement for #Kartarpur corridor.”