India and Pakistan will on Thursday hold crucial talks on the modalities for operationalising the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor amid tension between the two countries in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack. The daylong meeting on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border will be led by senior officials from both sides.
On the eve of the talks, India said it would take up with Pakistan the ‘Khalistan’ propaganda during visits of Sikh pilgrims to the neighbouring country. It would be made unambiguously clear to the Pakistani side that this religious initiative should not be used for “pro-Khalistan” propaganda or for encouraging secessionist tendencies.
This will be the first meeting between the officials of the two countries to decide on the details, such as alignment, of the corridor. The talks are being considered significant coming as they do in the midst on heightened tensions since the Pulwama attack.
The Indian delegation will include officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The delegation will be led by Anil Malik, Joint Secretary (Foreigners) MHA, and include Deepak Mittal, Joint Secretary (Pakistan) in the MEA.
The Pakistan delegation will be led by Mohammad Faisal, Director-General (South Asia) at the Foreign Ministry and include officials from Pakistan’s Interior, Law and Religious Affairs Ministry.
Ahead of the meeting, India has made it clear that the talks on the corridor should not be considered resumption of dialogue. These talks were being undertaken only with the intention of operationalising the corridor in keeping with the emotions and sentiments of the Sikh community. Sources said Indian officials would reject any attempt by the Pakistani delegation to raise any issue other than the corridor at the meeting.
On Pakistan’s claim that India has not given visas to Pakistani journalists for covering the talks, sources said it was only a technical meeting for the corridor and not a public ceremony or event.
New Delhi and Islamabad had last week confirmed that talks would be held as scheduled despite the current stand-off.
India has already approved the building of a passenger terminal building (PTB complex) at a cost of Rs 190 crores to handle immigration and customs clearance facilities for 5000 pilgrims every day. The design of the complex has been inspired by “Khanda” which is the symbol of Sikhism. India has already shared the crossing point for the corridor but Pakistan has suggested an alternate crossing point.