LAHORE/GURDASPUR, Aug 30:
India and Pakistan today made “good progress” on the technical aspects of the proposed Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh pilgrims, a Pakistani official said following the first such meeting after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status leading to fresh tensions between the two neighbours.
The meeting at the Zero point, where the Indian and Pakistani side of the proposed corridor converge, was attended by 10 to 15 officials from each side, an official of the National Highways Authority of India, who attended the meeting, told PTI.
The meeting lasted for close to two hours during which various technical aspects pertaining to the corridor were discussed, chief engineer with NHAI, T S Chahal, said.
“It was a positive meeting and a good progress has been made regarding timely completing the corridor project,” an official of the Pakistan Foreign Office said in Lahore.
“Both sides also agreed to have another meeting of technical experts to review the progress on the project,” the official said.
A meeting on the “political aspects” of the project will also be held soon, the Pakistani official said.
“In that meeting, the memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be signed between the two countries on the corridor project,” he said.
From the Indian side, officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs, BSF, Land Port Authority of India, which is constructing a state-of-the-art passenger terminal building, attended the meeting.
The proposed 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.
This was the first meeting on the Kartarpur Corridor after India on August 5 revoked Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories.
Chahal said the technical issues regarding level of roads and bridge of proposed corridor, were also discussed.
Medical facilities which would be provided to pilgrims during their visit were also discussed.
In the meeting, which was held in makeshift tents at the Zero point, both the sides discussed timing of completion of bridge, alignment of roads and other engineering aspects of the proposed crossing points.
“The meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere,” said Chahal.
He said various works relating to the corridor would be completed well in time before the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in November.
The Foreign Office of Pakistan did not issue any statement about the meeting of the technical experts of both countries till Friday evening as it wanted to make it a low-key affair while observing Friday as a day of solidarity with Kashmiris on the appeal of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The area where the meeting took place was heavily guarded and no media personnel was allowed to go near the venue.
However, the devotees and local people were allowed access to a point on the Indian side from where they could see the Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib.
Pakistan and India have been discussing the modalities regarding the opening of the corridor at Narowal, some 125-km from Lahore, on the occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in November.
Over the past few months many rounds of meetings have been held on the corridor during which the experts from the two sides have discussed its alignment, coordinates and other engineering aspects of the proposed crossing points.
In July, delegations of the two countries held a meeting on the Pakistani side of the Attari-Wagah border to discuss the modalities of the Kartarpur corridor.
The corridor will also be the first visa-free corridor between the two neighbours since their independence in 1947.
Pakistan is building the corridor from the Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Guru Nanak, while the other part from Dera Baba Nanak up to the border will be constructed by India.
India is constructing a bridge at the zero point and has urged Pakistan to build a similar bridge on its side that will provide safe and secure movement of pilgrims and address concerns regarding flooding. The bridge is over a creek of which the majority part falls in Pakistan.
Tension between India and Pakistan has escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. Reacting to India’s move on Kashmir, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.
On November 26, 2018, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu laid the foundation stone of the Dera Baba Nanak – Kartarpur Sahib Corridor (up to the International Border) in Gurdaspur district of Punjab.
Two days later, Pakistan Prime Minister Khan laid the foundation stone for the 4-kilometre corridor on the Pakistani side. (PTI)
LAHORE/GURDASPUR, Aug 30: