News

Kartarpur corridor talks: India to ask Pak to let more pilgrims in, reduce paperwork

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on July 12, 2019 Published on July 12, 2019

A file photo of the shrine of Sikh leader Guru Nanak Dev in Kartarpur, Pakistan   -  PTI

New Delhi will persuade Islamabad to expedite work so that corridor becomes operational by Nov

India will raise concerns with Pakistan on a number of crucial issues on the proposed Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims to be operational in November such as the numbers to be allowed daily, the paper-work required and the building of a bridge over a flood-prone creek when the two meet at Pakistan’s side of the Wagah border on Sunday, a government official has said.

New Delhi’s objections to inclusion of a Khalistani separatist in a committee set up by Pakistan on the project, which has been ignored so far, will also be raised at the meeting.

“There are a large number of issues that are to be ironed out with Pakistan including infrastructure and logistics issues and the Indian delegation will pursue each one of them when the two sides meet on July 14. Hopefully we can settle these issues and work will progress smoothly on the Pakistani side too for completion of the corridor in less than four months time,” the official told BusinessLine.

Last year, Islamabad agreed to New Delhi’s proposal of setting up a border-crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan, which is the final resting place of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, to Dera Baba Nanak in Gudaspur district in India.

India wants the corridor to be ready in time for pilgrims to visit Kartarpur to celebrate Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary in November this year. However, a lot of ground still needs to be covered both in terms of reaching an understanding on the technical aspects of the visit with Pakistan as well as building of adequate physical infrastructure.

One major technical problem that needs to be sorted out is that while India has made facilities for handling up to 5,000 pilgrims everyday, which can be doubled on special occasions, Pakistan is ready to handle just 700 pilgrims on a daily basis. “Pakistan’s willingness to allow just 700 pilgrims per day is way lower than the demand from Indian pilgrims. The number has to go up. Moreover it wants pilgrims to move in groups while we demand flexibility,” the official said.

Documentation

The documentation required for pilgrims to cross over is also a contentious issue with the Pakistani government putting the condition of travel against a special permit on the payment of a fee while India is demanding that travel should be allowed only against a valid passport. “Pilgrims need just a few hours to cross over to the Pakistani side, visit the holy place and come back. Any documentation requirement beyond passports will just create unnecessary procedural hassles which should be avoided,” the official said.

India’s team will also make a strong case for removal of Khalistani separatist Gopal Singh Chawla from a committee on the Kartarpur corridor set up by Pakistan.

Pakistan also has to be convinced to build a bridge over the Rabi creek channel to avoid floods from disrupting pilgrims’ visit and compromising their safety. “Pakistan till now has agreed to build a mud embankment but that is not enough and a bridge has to be built,” the official said. Indian officials will also try to convince their Pakistani counterparts to speed up construction work so that the corridor is complete by October-end.

Published on July 12, 2019
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor