India to restart talks with Pak on Kartarpur Corridor

Heavy machines at work beyond the border fence for the construction of the Indian side of Kartarpur corridor, in Gurdaspur district. PTI file photo

India is set to restart its engagement with Pakistan on the proposed “Kartarpur Corridor” after keeping it in abeyance for three months to protest the move by the government of the neighbouring country to rope in people known for supporting the campaign for Khalistan.

The officials of India and Pakistan will meet on July 14 to discuss the draft agreement for finalising the modalities of Kartarpur Corridor and related technical issues. Pakistan will host the meeting at Wagah adjacent to its border with India.

Islamabad on Tuesday conveyed to New Delhi that it was ready to host the meeting on July 14. India had a few days back sent a proposal to Pakistan to hold the meeting any day between July 11 and 14.

The meeting on “Kartarpur Corridor” is going to be India's first engagement with Pakistan after its Lok Sabha elections, which saw the ruling BJP harping on the “strong response” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to export of terror from the neighbouring country.

The “Kartarpur Corridor” linking India and Pakistan was conceived to facilitate pilgrims from India to visit the final resting place of Sikhism's founder Guru Nanak in Pakistan, without requiring any travel documents. The officials of the two governments had held the first meeting on “Kartarpur Corridor” at Attari (India) on the Attari-Wagah border on March 14.

With the celebration of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak scheduled to commence in November, both sides discussed the possibility of expediting work to make the corridor operational.

The Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Pakistan is among the holiest for the Sikhs as it marks the place where Guru Nanak lived for 18 years and finally breathed his last in 1539.

The March 14 meeting was the first engagement between New Delhi and Islamabad after tension between the two nations escalated over the February 14 killing of over 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel in a terrorist attack at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir and India's air strike on a terror camp in Pakistan on February 26.

The second meeting had been scheduled to take place at Wagah (Pakistan) on the Attari-Wagah border on April 2.

New Delhi, however, on March 29 put on hold its engagement with Islamabad on “Kartarpur Corridor”, expressing concerns over the inclusion of Gopal Singh Chawla and other pro-Khalistani activists based in Pakistan in a committee that Prime Minister Imran Khan's Government in the neighbouring country constituted to welcome the pilgrims travelling from India. Chawla, who is known to be linked to anti-India and pro-Khalistan entities based in Pakistan, is also linked to radical cleric Hafiz Saeed, who is based at Lahore in the neighbouring country and whom New Delhi suspects to be the founder of the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) as well as the brain behind the November 26-28, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai.

It is still not clear if Pakistan dropped Chawla and other pro-Khalistani activists from the committee to address the concerns of India.

A source in New Delhi, however, said that India had recently taken the initiative to restart talks with Pakistan on “Kartarpur Corridor” only to demonstrate its commitment to the project. The resumption of talks on the corridor should not be construed as an indication of New Delhi softening its stand and agreeing to restart its Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue with Islamabad, added the source.

The bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other disputes remained stalled since 2013.

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