DW BUREAU / NEW DELHI
India is fully committed to the Kartarpur Sahib corridor project and wants the work to be completed expeditiously, the External Affairs Ministry said here on Thursday.
The assertion came after a section of media reported that India is lagging behind in the construction of the Kartarpur corridor.
“We are fully committed to this project and want it to be expeditiously completed,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at the weekly media briefing.
He said the government is aware of the sentiments of people and pilgrims for the Kartarpur Sahib.
Kumar said the work on two important aspects — the state of the art passenger terminal and the four-lane highway which is going to connect the zero point of the Kartarpur corridor to the national highway — will be completed in time. “One (should be completed) by September 2019 and the other by October 2019. So the reports that we are slow on work is not the correct depiction,” Kumar said. The first meeting to finalise the modalities for the corridor took place on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border on March 14.
A meeting will be held on the Pakistan side of the Wagah border on July 14. “Our desire to have talks basically conveys that whatever the differences are, we will have talks and we will take up those matters with Pakistan when we meet them up on 14th of this month,” Kumar added.
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. 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, sources said here.
Three rounds of technical level discussions have been held with the Pakistani side and they have been asked not to create structures that will, 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 will provide safe and secure movement of the pilgrims and also address concerns regarding flooding, according to the sources.
The passenger terminal building is being constructed by the Land Ports Authority of India. The work for it 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 177.5 crores.
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 (NHAI), the sources said.
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.
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.