- India is expected to raise several issues during the talks
- The first level of talks were held on March 14
- Kartarpur Sahib is an important Sikh shrine established in 1522
Pakistan today agreed in-principle to build a bridge on the zero line of the Kartarpur Corridor to provide all-weather connectivity, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement after a two-hour meeting to iron out issues in the second round of talks over the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims.
India is already constructing a bridge on the zero line; Pakistan, however, had been insisting on constructing a causeway, which India believes, would act as a barrier, directing more flood water towards India.
"...Pakistan side agreed, in principle, to build a bridge at the earliest. Pending the construction of a bridge over the old Ravi creek by Pakistan on their territory, India offered to make interim arrangements for making the corridor operational in November 2019, given the historic importance of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji," the Foreign Ministry said in the statement.
Both countries agreed to allow visa-free travel for Indians and those who have Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards, the statement said.
"Throughout the year, 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara per day... Pakistan highlighted the infrastructural constraints on their side and conveyed that they may be able to accommodate many of the Indian proposals in a phased manner," the Foreign Ministry said.
"There should be no restrictions on the pilgrims in terms of their faith," it said.
The second round of talks comes a day after Pakistan removed pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla from its committee that is involved in talks with India.
The Indian delegation for the talks today was led by the Home Ministry's Joint Secretary (Internal Security) SCL Das and the Foreign Ministry's Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) Deepak Mittal, while the 20-member Pakistani delegation was led by Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson of the Pakistani Foreign Ministry.
"Pakistan is fully committed and cooperating to operationalise Kartarpur Corridor," said Mr Faisal this morning.
The Kartarpur corridor will be vulnerable to flooding as it is being built near the flood plains of the Ravi river. In 2013, when the area was flooded, it had caused great damage to people living in Punjab's Gurdaspur area.
Once built, the corridor will connect the Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims. The pilgrims will require just a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, an important Sikh shrine established in 1522 by the faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev.
The first level of talks were held on March 14 and second round, which were to take place on April 2, were called off pending clarifications by Islamabad on New Delhi's security concerns. In May, India had raised concerns that Pakistan is promoting the interest of Khalistani groups under the garb of the Kartarpur corridor.