Pilgrims’ Safety To Top Second Round Of India-Pak Talks On Kartarpur

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India expects to finish work on the Kartarpur Corridor by October 31.

New Delhi:

India is hopeful that it will be able to bridge gaps and work out issues with Pakistan in the second round of talks over the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims which are set to take place on Sunday.

"We are looking forward to the second round of talks with lot of expectations and hope that issues which cropped up last time will be resolved," a senior official in the Ministry of External Affairs said.

India is expected to raise several issues including infrastructure and safety of the pilgrims in this meeting.

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"Flooding of the area is our prime concern. We have urged Pakistan to build a bridge – like we are building – on their side too as it would help to provide safe movement of the pilgrims and prevent flooding of Indian areas during monsoon when the Ravi river overflows," a senior Home Ministry official said, requesting not to be named.

India is constructing a bridge on the zero line of the Kartarpur Corridor to provide all-weather connectivity.

Pakistan, however, has been insisting on constructing a causeway, which India believes, would act as a barrier, directing more flood water towards India, reports have said.

"Three rounds of technical level discussions have been held with the Pakistan 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 Home Ministry official said.

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.

"This is the first monsoon in which we will see what kind of impact there would be due to the construction," the official said.

According to him, India would be able to complete work on its side by October 31. "Highway work would be completed by September 30 and site work by October 31," he said.

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.

The Indian delegation for the talks on Sunday will be led by the Joint Secretary (Foreigners) Ministry of Home Affairs, Anil Malik, while Mohammed Faisal, Director General, South Asia, at the Pakistan Foreign Ministry will represent Islamabad.

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