ISLAMABAD  -   Pakistan and India will hold talks today to finalise the draft agreement on the Kartarpur Corridor.

A Pakistani delegation is scheduled to arrive in India on Thursday to discuss and finalise modalities for facilitating visit of Sikh pilgrims through the Kartarpur Corridor.

Pakistan has already shared the draft agreement to facilitate Indian Sikh Yatrees (pilgrims) to visit the Gurdwara, Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Narowal, Pakistan. This was in line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s commitment to open Kartarpur Corridor on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in November this year.

But India, living up to its reputation of spoiling the party, on Wednesday refused to issue visas to Pakistani journalists who wanted to cover the corridor talks.

Pakistan regretted that India had not issued visas to the Pakistani journalists to cover the round of talks on Kartarpur Corridor at Attari near Amritsar today (March 14).

This will be their first meeting on March 14 at the top level to finalise the modalities and discuss the draft agreement of the Kartarpur Corridor.

“Hope the #PakKartarpurSpirit & meeting tomorrow will bring a change for the better for people of both countries,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said on twitter.

Dr Faisal reminded that more than 30 Indian journalists covered the Kartarpur ground-breaking ceremony in Pakistan last year. They also met Prime Minister Imran Khan and were hosted by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi for a dinner during their stay in Pakistan.

Officials said an Indian team will visit Pakistan later this month to finalise the deal. “Despite tensions, it’s a great initiative which will help cool the high tempers,” said one official.

Another official said Pakistan was going into the talks with an ‘open mind’ and aimed to improve ties with India.

For Kartarpur Corridor talks, a Pakistani delegation led by Dr Mohammed Faisal will cross Wagah border to hold consultations with India on March 14. Later, an Indian delegation will also arrive in Pakistan on March 28 for further deliberations.

Islamabad and New Delhi had last week confirmed that talks were on schedule despite the tensions. However, in its recent wave of aggression, India refuted to accept it as a resumption of dialogue between the two South Asian neighbours.

In November 2018, Pakistan offered India the building of the corridor for Sikh pilgrims for visiting the  Gurudwara at Kartarpur where the founder of Sikhism – Guru Nanak lived for 18 years.

Later, the building of a passenger terminal building (PTB complex) at the cost of Rs190 crores was approved, which will be able to handle immigration and customs clearance facilities for 5,000 pilgrims every day. The corridor can pave a way for ‘facilitating and fortifying’ people-to-people bonds of the two countries.

Last year, on November 28, Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of Kartarpur Corridor which was also attended by Indian ministers Navjot Singh Sidhu, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri on the invitation of the Pakistan government.

The ground-breaking ceremony was attended by Chief of the Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and other government officials.


Saudi embassy statement

 Saudi Arabia played a crucial role to ‘normalise’ ties between Pakistan and India amid simmering tensions, the Saudi Arabia embassy here said yesterday.

A statement issued by the embassy said Riyadh had played a crucial role to defuse Pak-India tension. The statement quoted the Saudi Council of Ministers as saying that the twin visits of Saudi Foreign Minister of State Adel Al Jubeir to Pakistan and India were meant to “pre-empt anything that might affect the region’s security and stability.”

Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz was thoroughly briefed on the outcome of al-Jubeir’s trips to the subcontinent, the statement added.

Saudi Arabia had earlier told Pakistan that it will not accept Indian allegations against Pakistan as Al-Jubeir visited New Delhi.

Saudi Foreign Minister of State Adel Al-Jubeir made a visit to India for just a little over four hours. He held meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj before flying back home.

This was his third interaction with the Indian side in 20 days. Last week, Jubeir was in Islamabad with an offer to mediate between Pakistan and India as Pak-India tensions were at their peak. Reports said India was against any mediation by Saudi Arabia or other countries.

Last week, a ‘special message’ of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was delivered to Prime Minister Imran Khan regarding mediation on Pak-India tension by Adel al-Jubeir.

This month, Foreign Minister Qureshi gave credit to the friendly countries for defusing Pak-India tension that threatened a large-scale war.

Pakistan had earlier conveyed to Saudi Arabia that it was not against Saudi Arabia’s trade with India as it respected every country’s sovereignty.


ECO secy gen’s visit

 Secretary-General of the Economic Cooperation Organisation Dr Hadi Soleimanpour called on Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua at the Foreign Office in Islamabad yesterday.

“During the meeting, matters of mutual interests came under discussion,” an official statement said. The FS briefed Dr Hadi Soleimanpour on the Indian aggression.


Progress on corridor work reviewed

 Staff Reporter from Lahore adds: Once Kartarpur Corridor will be completed 0.3m Sikhs would be able to perform rituals at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Evacuee Trust Property Board Secretary Tariq Wazir said.

He said while chairing a review meeting in Lahore yesterday on the progress on Kartarpur Corridor in and around Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur.

Trust Secretary said that currently 10,000 to 15,000 Sikhs can perform their religious rituals at Kartarpur Gurdwara but once the corridor completed around 0.3m Sikhs would be able to perform.

“Phase-I of Kartarpur Corridor will be completed on the eve of 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak,” he said. 300ft extension has been constructed in existing boundary wall of Gurdwara while security forces have taken all the measures to protect the ongoing construction at Gurdwara, he added.

Pakistan Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Chairperson Sardar Tara Singh expressed his satisfaction on the ongoing construction in and around Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.