Top officials of India and Pakistan will meet on Thursday at the Attari-Wagah border to discuss the early operationalization of the Kartarpur corridor. The Indian delegation headed by the joint secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs will meet the Pakistani delegation headed by their director general, South Asia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at 10:30 AM at the joint check post at Attari.
The discussions are taking place in the backdrop of ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan. India has made it clear that talks on the Kartarpur corridor should not be linked with the resumption of bilateral dialogue on any other matters and the discussions on Thursday morning will focus solely on addressing the corridor, a religious and emotional issue. In fact, sources say Indian officials will reject talks on any other issue apart from the Kartarpur corridor and will make it clear that this religious initiative should not be used for pro-Khalistan propaganda and encouraging secessionist tendencies in future.
India has acquired a 50 acre plot of land to build a state of the art passenger terminal to transport at least 5,000 pilgrims each day from Dera Baba Nanak, Punjab to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, Pakistan. Officials want to ensure that the passenger terminal has enough facilities to cater to even 10,000 passengers on special days.
The BSF will be responsible for the entire security of the terminal and also the safety of pilgrims till they enter Pakistan. 54 immigration counters will be created and India wants to ensure visa free transport for Indian citizens. The officials of both sides will discuss what identity proof would be required for travel and whether the formality of carrying a passport can be done away with.
The first phase of Kartarpur corridor will cover 21,650 square metres. Main passenger terminal will be fully air conditioned and spread over 13,000 square metres. The main terminal will have seating arrangements for 2,000 passengers and will be fully covered by CCTV cameras. There will also be a 300 feet national monumental flag at the international border. The Indian government hopes to ready the passenger terminal by September, 2019, well in time for the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak.
India has shared a draft memorandum of agreement with the Pakistani side. The sole purpose of the meeting would be to align infrastructure and security requirements between both sides to ensure smooth passage of pilgrims. A four kilometre road has to be constructed from Dera Baba Nanak on the Indian side to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan. Discussions would also focus on aligning coordinates for the proposed road project.
Officials stressed that the opening up of the Kartarpur Corridor has been a long standing demand of the Indian government, ever since the tenure of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Pakistan had also requested for visa facilitation for journalists to cover the meeting, but the request was turned down by the MEA, saying "this is only a meeting to discuss modalities of the Kartarpur corridor and not an event".