ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is expecting an Indian team soon to finalise the Kartarpur Corridor plan, officials said on Tuesday. Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation, that there will be talks in the coming days to formalise the Kartarpur Corridor project – aimed at facilitating the Indian Sikh community.  “We are in contact with India and hopefully a team will soon visit Pakistan to finalise the arrangements. There is no disagreement so far on anything. Both sides (Pakistan and India) are optimistic for peace through this project,” said one official.

Another official said that Pakistan was committed to complete the project in the given time. “It is now up to India to lend a helping hand by cooperating,” he added.

This week, Pakistan shared the draft agreement between Pakistan and the India to facilitate Indian Sikh Yatrees (pilgrims) to visit the Gurudwara, Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Narowal, Pakistan. This was in line with the 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. Pakistan has appointed Director General South Asia Dr Mohammed Faisal as the focal person and requested India to designate a focal person at its end. Pakistan has also invited India to urgently send a delegation to Islamabad to negotiate and finalize the agreement.

Prime Minister Khan had inaugurated the groundbreaking of the Kartarpur corridor on November 28 last year. Pakistan took this step to accommodate the longstanding request of the Sikh community, especially from India particularly in view of 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.  India had sent Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri for the inaugural event in the Pakistani side. Indian Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu also participated. The Pakistan-India ties nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place. The nuclear armed neighbours, having fought three wars since gaining independence from the British in 1947, regularly trade allegations of harassment and espionage against diplomats.

Tensions between Pakistan and India have been high since the killing of a Kashmiri freedom fighter, Burhan Wani, in July 2016. An attack on Indian forces in September 2016 - that killed 19 soldiers in Uri area of held Kashmir - further heightened the tensions. India also claimed it had carried a “surgical strike” to avenge the Uri attack. Pakistan rejected the Indian claim. Yesterday, representatives of Sikh community in Qatar called on Prime Minister Imran Khan in Doha. They thanked him for the groundbreaking of Kartarpur Corridor which was the longstanding desire of the Sikh community globally. Last day, Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu wrote to Prime Minister Imran Khan and Indian PM Narendra Modi suggesting ways to maintain the ‘sanctity’ of Kartarpur Sahib.

Sidhu in his letters to the two Prime Ministers suggested that concrete structures should be avoided to maintain the ‘pristine’ landscape. “The sacredness and serenity of Kartarpur Sahib and Dera Baba Nanak Gurudwara Sahib await the footfalls of our pilgrims. Yet precisely our footfalls have the power to erode the history, architecture and ecology of these sites. We, who revere most their pristine landscape and terrain, must tread lightly to avoid disfigurement in the name of commercialisation and tourist comforts,” he wrote.

Yesterday, a Pakistan-India peace calendar was released in New Delhi to send out a message of peace amid strain in bilateral ties between Pakistan and India. The calendar is an initiative of the Aaghaz-e-Dosti (beginning of friendship) organization that works to foster people-to-people relations between Pakistan and India through its voluntary network of people. The calendar features paintings of school students from Pakistan and India on the theme of peace. Six paintings from each country were selected to publish in the form of calendar.