'India to promptly complete work on Kartarpur corridor'

Heavy machines at work beyond the border fence for the construction of the Indian side of Kartarpur corridor, in Gurdaspur district, Monday, April 29, 2019. (PTI Photo)

India is on track to expeditiously complete the work on the Kartarpur corridor so that pilgrims can have easy, smooth, secure and safe access to the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan throughout the year, sources said on Tuesday.

The assertion came after a media report quoted Punjab Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who is head of the Kartarpur Development Project, as saying that Pakistan had completed more than 70 per cent of work, while India is lagging behind with just about 30 per cent completion.

Issues related to providing facilities to pilgrims, including allowing a larger number of pilgrims to move across the corridor, and other modalities for the project will be further discussed at a meeting on July 14, the sources said here.

"The government remains committed to expeditiously realise the Kartarpur corridor so that the pilgrims can have easy, smooth, secure and safe access to the holy Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib throughout the year," a source said.

The sources said a state-of-the-art passenger terminal building is being constructed by the Land Ports Authority of India and the work was awarded to the Shapoorji Pallonji Group on May 29.

The land acquisition process has been completed with the support of the Punjab government and the project is scheduled to be completed by October 31. The total cost of the project is Rs 177.50 crores, they said.

The four-lane highway connecting the 'zero point' of the Kartarpur corridor up to National Highway-354 is being constructed by the National Highway Authority of India, the sources said.

"The work was awarded in January 2019 at a total cost of Rs 120 crores. The land acquisition of 58 acres has been completed with the support of the state government.

"Nearly 45 per cent of the work has been completed. The road is scheduled to be completed by September 30," a source said.

Three rounds of technical level discussions have been held with the Pakistani side and they have been asked not to create structures that would, in any manner, endanger life and property on the Indian side due to flooding, the sources said.

India is already building a bridge on its side to provide all-weather connectivity for the Kartarpur corridor, they said.

Pakistan has also been urged to build a similar bridge on their side that would provide safe and secure movement of the pilgrims and also address concerns regarding flooding, according to the sources.

"Concerns regarding possible flooding of Dera Baba Nanak due to the construction of an embankment filled road on the Pakistani side have been raised strongly," a source here said.

The July 14 meeting will be held on the Pakistan side of the Wagah border.

Last month, India proposed July 11-14 to Pakistan to hold a fresh round of talks on the Kartarpur corridor. On Tuesday, Pakistan agreed for the dialogue on July 14.

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 Kartarpur project.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a letter written in response to a congratulatory message from his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan after the Lok Sabha polls, had called for "early operationalisation of the Kartarpur corridor".

In November 2018, Pakistan agreed to set up the border-crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak, to Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district.

Kartarpur is located in Pakistan's Narowal district across the Ravi river, about four km from Dera Baba Nanak.

Technical experts of the two countries met on March 19 during which alignment, coordinates and several other engineering aspects of the proposed corridor were discussed. They also held a meeting on May 27.

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, the Pakistani prime minister laid the foundation stone of the corridor in Narowal, around 125 km from Lahore.

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