India expects to finish work on the Kartarpur Corridor by October 31.
Conceding to India’s demand, Pakistan has removed a pro-Khalistan leader from its committee to iron out issues in the second round of talks over the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims, set to take place on Sunday.
Pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla will no longer be part of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) that is engaged in talks with India to discuss infrastructure issues and safety of the pilgrims.
“The Federal Government (Federal Cabinet) has been pleased to re-constitute the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC),” the Pakistani government said in a statement on Friday. It listed out the names of the members of the reworked committee, which did not have Gopal Singh Chawla.
Chawla provoked anger in India last year when he stopped Indian officials from visiting a gurdwara in Lahore to meet Sikh pilgrims from India. His name cropped up during investigations into a grenade attack in November last year at the Nirankari Bhawan in Amritsar, in which three were killed. He is also believed to be close to terrorist Hafiz Saeed and has also been photographed with him.
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 on Sunday.
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.
“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,” said a senior Home Ministry official, 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.
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