Amid the ongoing tension between India and Pakistan, the officials of the two neighbouring countries will meet for the first time on Thursday to finalise the modalities of the Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate Indian pilgrims to pray at the historic Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara throughout the year.
In November last year, the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, passed the resolution regarding the corridor to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, which falls in 2019. If the corridor, which was proposed by the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999, gets connected on the both sides, this could also provide a major tourism boost as more pilgrims would be able to visit the holy shrine throughout the year.
The meeting will take place on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border on March 14. The two sides will discuss the technical aspects and draft agreement for setting up a dedicated corridor that will allow a passport and visa free `darshan' for the Indian pilgrims.
India-Pakistan relations hit a new low last month after the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personals were killed.
The Indian government has approved the construction of a passenger terminal building (PTB complex) with investment of Rs 190 crore which is expected handle immigration and customs clearance facilities for 5,000 pilgrims on regular days.
Pakistan, on its part, has also decided to begin building the Kartarpur corridor, with Prime Minister Imran Khan laying the foundation stone.
Kartarpur is located in Shakargarh in Narowal district of Pakistan's Punjab. Guru Nanak Dev had spent over 18 years of his life here. The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara is located about three to 4km from the Indo-Pak border in Pakistan.
Officials from the various ministries including Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of Punjab, National Highway Authority, Road Transport and Border Security Force (BSF) will be attending the meeting. The Indian side will be led by Joint Secretary (Foreigners) MHA, Anil Malik and will also include Joint Secretary (PAI-Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran) MEA, Deepak Mittal and other officials, the Financial Express reported.
Last week, the Ministry of Home Affairs had clarified that talks over Kartarpur corridor doesn't mean it is resumption of the dialogue between the two sides. "It is related to the emotions of Indian citizens of Sikh faith. Our decision to meet reflects our strong commitment to operationalise the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on the occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, and also to meet the long-pending demand to have easy and smooth access to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib (in Pakistan)," said Raveesh Kumar, the MEA spokesperson.
Edited by Chitranjan Kumar