Officials from India and Pakistan on Sunday began the second round of talks to discuss draft agreement and operationalisation of the Kartarpur corridor and related technical issues.
The corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, which was established in 1522 by Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak Dev.
"We are hopeful to have productive discussion and settlement of issues. The 70 per cent work on the corridor has been completed," Mohammad Faisal, the leader of the 13-member Pakistani delegation and spokesperson of the Foreign Office, said ahead of the meeting. Faisal, who is also the Director General of South Asia and SAARC, said Pakistan is participating in the talks with a positive mindset.
"The first round of talks was successful and we were ready for the second round in April," he said, adding that the second round of talks is "very important." "Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan wants peace in the region. He is committed to open the corridor in time for the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak in November 2019," he added.
A Foreign Office official told PTI that the eight-member Indian delegation arrived here at 9:15 a.m (local time). "The meeting between both delegations has begun and (it's) likely to last for a few hours," he said, adding Faisal will brief the media after the conclusion of the second round of talks.
Sources in New Delhi earlier said that key issues such as connectivity at Zero Point and the number of pilgrims to be allowed through the Kartarpur corridor will be discussed during the meeting on Sunday. They said India will also flag its concerns over the security aspect. India had earlier conveyed its strong concerns to Pakistan over the presence of a leading Khalistani separatist in a committee appointed by Islamabad on the project.
Matters related to the modalities of the corridor, who can use the corridor and its facilities, will be discussed during the meeting. The first round of talks was held in Attari on March 14 in the shadow of escalating bilateral tensions following the Pulwama terror attack by a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed on February 14.
Both sides had jointly surveyed the coordinates of the Zero Point and discussed the technical details, including finished road level, high flood level etc. Pakistan will build the corridor from the Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur while the other part from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district up to the border will be constructed by India.
Last November, India and Pakistan agreed to set up the border crossing linking Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India's Gurdaspur district. Kartarpur Sahib is located in Pakistan's Narowal district across the river Ravi, about four km from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had on November 26 last year laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur Corridor in Gurdaspur district. Two days later, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the corridor in Narowal, 125-km from Lahore.
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.