Is Pakistan dragging its feet on Kartarpur corridor?
- Pakistan is nit-picking on building an all-weather bridge on its side despite the deadline of November when the 550th anniversary of the founder of Sikhism is to be observed
- India has also sought consular presence at Kartarpur Sahib to facilitate the pilgrims, which Pakistan has not agreed to
Even though nearly half of construction work on the 4-lane highway stretch on the Indian side of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor is already complete, Pakistan is nit-picking on building an all-weather bridge on its side despite the deadline of November when the 550th anniversary of the founder of Sikhism is to be observed.
At the May 27 technical expert group meeting on the project, Pakistan offered instead to build a causeway on its side, which NHAI and other officials warned would leave the catchment area of Ravi river prone to flash floods that can submerge it.
Sources said the mismatch in highway construction plans on the two sides — wherein a four-lane highway on the Indian side will meet a two-lane highway on the Pakistan side and an all-weather bridge on the Indian side of the zero point will connect to a causeway across the border — have been raised repeatedly. But Pakistan has been citing limited resources and paucity of time before start of celebrations for 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak to wriggle out. This is a far cry from the earnestness which which Pakistan was supposed to pursue the project.
“We have shared technical experts’ reports about non-feasibility of the causeway planned by Pakistan as it will become non-operational during floods, but have failed to get Islamabad to commit to a bridge. We have even offered to, for now, make a causeway using a service road on our side, to merge with the Pakistani causeway. But we shall continue to pursue Pakistan via diplomatic channels to agree to building a bridge as a long-term and technically viable solution,” said a government official. “The idea is to facilitate the pilgrims as much as possible. Flooding of causeway will halt the pilgrimage temporarily, which will not be the case if a bridge connects the corridor on both sides,” said a government official. Pakistan is more focused on maintaining the defence bund in the area, he added.
The arguments advanced by Pakistan may be rooted, it is felt here, in concerns over the use of the road in military terms. However, given its short distance and clearly defined path, the fear seems overstated. It is also possible that delays in the corridor may be blamed on India in future. India has also sought consular presence at Kartarpur Sahib to facilitate the pilgrims, which Pakistan has not agreed to.
“It seems Pakistan is trying to come up with excuses to renege on its earlier commitment to extend all help to facilitate the Kartarpur Sahib corridor and let it dictate the timing and frequency of the pilgrimage,” said an official.
Kartarpur corridor connects Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, in Narowal, Pakistan.
India hopes to complete construction work of nearly 4.2 km four-lane road on its side by September 30. The passenger terminal building complex is expected to be functional by October 31.