India will be ready to commence the Sikh pilgrimage through Kartarpur corridor to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur by the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the government said on Sunday after talks with Pakistan.
Joint secretary (internal security), Home Ministry, SCL Das, who was part of the talks from the Indian side, said India has asked Pakistan to allow smooth access to 5,000 devotees every day to the shrine.
He said both the countries have agreed to maintain communication and work towards agreement of modalities. “If required, our delegations could meet in India to formally conclude the agreement.”
Dr Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan, said there might be one more meeting to discuss pending issues. “80 per cent and more has been agreed upon in the talks.”
Officials from India and Pakistan on Sunday (July 14) began the second round of talks to discuss draft agreement and operationalisation of the Kartarpur corridor and related technical issues.
The corridor will connect Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s 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.
Das said India has sought Pakistan’s for ‘Nagar Kirtan’ from Delhi to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan to be arranged by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee.
India also conveyed its concerns to Pakistan on possible flooding of areas adjoining the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara due to the construction of a causeway by the neighbouring nation and urged it to make a bridge like India is doing.
New Delhi also urged Islamabad to take into consideration the sentiments of pilgrims to have smooth, easy, unrestricted access throughout the year for visiting the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, an official statement said.
A dossier was handed over to Pakistan to highlight India’s concerns to which it assured the Indian delegation that no anti-India activity would be allowed.
In this context, concerns regarding individuals or organisations based in Pakistan who might try to disrupt the pilgrimage and misuse the opportunity to play with the pilgrims’ sentiments were shared.
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 said that the eight-member Indian delegation arrived here at 9:15 am (local time).
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 were 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 whi le 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. Khan’s government has earmarked ₹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.