Despite the current tensions in bilateral ties, India is likely to formally propose to Pakistan an early meeting of the coordination committee to establish the cross-border Kartarpur Corridor that will connect two Sikh shrines on both sides of the Indo-Pak border and allow pilgrims to travel without a visa.
An indication to this effect came on Thursday after a high-level meeting attended by the officials from the External Affairs and Home ministries, Punjab Government, central and state security agencies, and the highway authorities. Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria was also among the participants.
The meeting with the Pakistani side was aimed at discussing the modalities of the road alignment and the logistics of moving large numbers of pilgrims between Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur (India) and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur (Pakistan).
Sources said the meeting could be held towards the end of January or early February. The venue would be decided through mutual consultations.
Last November, the two governments decided to open the pilgrimage corridor to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019. While Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu launched the project in India, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation-stone of the corridor on the Pakistani side.
India, has, however, made it clear that the opening of the corridor or discussions on it would in no way mean a breakthrough in bilateral ties. New Delhi has reiterated that there would be no dialogue with Pakistan until it stopped promoting terrorism on the Indian soil.
Pakistan claims it has already started working on the corridor project in right earnest and completed nearly 30 per cent of the work on it. Sources said the infrastructure to be built on the Pakistani side was much more difficult than the work to be done in the Indian territory. Pakistan would have to build roads over three bridges.
When the Indian and Pakistani senior officials meet, they would not only have to decide on the road alignment but also the logistics for ferrying a large number of pilgrims.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has written to the Centre, seeking a waiver of passports for pilgrims as most common people, especially in rural areas, did not possess passports. According to him, any other valid government document should be sufficient for identification.