In a significant movement forward, India and Pakistan have zeroed in on a date for the first round of official bilateral talks to operationalise the nearly 4-km Kartarpur corridor.
Days after India proposed dates for talks with Pakistan to finalise the draft, Islamabad today said it will send across its team on March 13 for discussions which the Ministry of External Affairs has now formally accepted.
India has also agreed to the Pak Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) proposal for the Indian delegation to travel across the border for follow up talks on March 28. India had earlier proposed February 26 and March 7 as possible dates for talks.
'In a spirit of constructive engagement Pakistan has proposed to India that the Pakistan delegation may visit India on 13 March followed by the return visit of the Indian delegation to Pakistan on 28 March to finalise the draft agreement for the #kartarpur corridor,' tweeted MOFA spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal, who has also been tasked to be the focal person to lead discussions on the Pakistani side. 'We look forward to positive reciprocity from India,' he added.
In response MEA spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar wrote, 'We welcome the visit of Pakistan team to discuss and finalise modalities for facilitating visit of pilgrims through Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on 13 March 2019 to India. Follow up meeting can be held in Pakistan, as required.'
India has also proposed that even as the modalities of the draft agreement are being worked out, technical discussions should commence. 'For expeditious realisation of kartarpurcorridor, India has also proposed technical-level discussions between engineers on both sides without waiting for discussion on the modalities. We hope Pakistan would positively respond & confirm coordinates of crossing point as well,' Said Mr. Raveesh Kumar.
Earlier, the cabinet meeting chaired by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan also approved the formation of a special committee to oversee the development in Kartarpur and Nanakana Sahib. The Governor of Punjab province, Chaudhary Mohammad Sarwar, will head the committee that will look into developing the area around Kartarpur Sahib in Narowal district on the Pakistani side including construction of hotels, shops and other facilities.
'The Sikh community wants to develop the areas. We want to streamline those offers,' said Pakistani Information Minister, Mr. Fawad Chaudhary.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, earlier in consultations held in New Delhi this week, hoped that India would share a draft agreement with Pakistan and complete legal modalities for the corridor sacred to Sikh pilgrims within a month. India has already communicated to Islamabad coordinates of the zero point on the International Border while the land acquisition process for the highway and the Integrated Check Post (ICP) is underway in consultation with the Punjab government.