Lahore: As the third round of talks between Pakistan and India on the Kartarpur corridor began at Attari on Wednesday, Pakistan said it was hopeful that the meeting will finalise the draft agreement of the project.
The corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of Punjab and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian 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.
"We are hopeful to give a final shape to the draft agreement of Kartarpur corridor in today's talks with India. Some 90 per cent work on the project has been completed and Pakistan is committed to opening the corridor in November," said Foreign Office spokesperson and Director General of South Asia and SAARC Mohammad Faisal, who is leading the Pakistani delegation.
Talking to reporters before crossing into India at Wagah border to take part in the talks, Faisal said Pakistan is positive for the outcome of the third round of talks on the corridor. "Pakistan has decided to open the corridor on the wish of the Sikh community. Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken the initiative for the minority community," he said.
An official told PTI that in the talks the names of the leaders from both sides are likely to be finalised who will be part of the opening ceremony. "Besides, the meeting may also finalise how many Sikhs from India will come to Pakistan on the opening ceremony of the corridor," he said, adding that it is expected that Pakistan and India reach a consensus on the issues that couldn't be settled in the July 14 meeting.
After the second round of meeting between the two countries on July 14 at Wagah border, Faisal had said: "There has been positive progress and we moved forward. Both countries have agreed 80 per cent and beyond regarding the Kartarpur corridor agreement. We may have another meeting to resolve the remaining 20 per cent issues between us on this matter." On August 30, technical experts from Pakistan and India held a meeting at the Zero Point on Kartarpur corridor project. The meeting on Friday lasted for close to two hours and both the sides have said "good progress" on the technical aspects of the proposed corridor.
Both countries have agreed that Pakistan would allow 5,000 Sikh visitors per day into the country through the corridor, which will also be the first visa-free corridor between the two neighbours since their independence in 1947.
Pakistan is building the corridor from the Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur while the other part from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district up to the border will be constructed by India. India is constructing a bridge at the zero point and has urged Pakistan to build a similar bridge on its side that will provide safe and secure movement of pilgrims and address concerns regarding flooding. The bridge is over a creek of which the majority part falls in Pakistan.
Tension between India and Pakistan has escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status. Reacting to India's move on Kashmir, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner. Pakistan has repeatedly said that the opening of the Kartarpur corridor will not be hit by the current tension with India.