Just a day ahead of the proposed meeting between delegates from India and Pakistan at the Attari-Wagah border to discuss issues related to the Kartarpur Corridor, Islamabad has removed pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla from the Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Prabandak Committee (PSGPC).
The development comes amid reports that India was planning to convey it strong concerns about the presence of pro-Khalistani leader on a panel associated with the project.
New Delhi had reportedly raised the issue to Pakistan during the first round of talks that was held on March 14 on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border.
The second round of talks, which was originally scheduled on April 2 was apparently postponed after India raised objections to it. Now the second round is scheduled for tomorrow i.e. July 14 at Wagah, on the Pakistani side.
"The meeting will discuss modalities of the Kartarpur Corridor and related technical issues," one of the sources said.
The project will allow easy access to Sikh pilgrims from India to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan, the final resting place of Guru Nanak.
"Issues pertaining to the modalities of the corridor, who can use the corridor and its facilities, how can the pilgrims move across with regards to documents required for the travel, how many pilgrims can travel will be on the agenda during the meeting," sources said.
They also added that a "hi-tech and robust security system" will be in place when the corridor become operational.
"Security is paramount and non-negotiable," they said.
The sources said the work on a four-lane highway on the Indian side is in full swing.
The four-lane highway connecting the Zero Point of the Kartarpur Corridor up to National Highway-354 is being constructed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). Pakistan is constructing a two-lane highway.
Officials said the work on the four-lane highway should be completed by September.
The sources said India is constructing a bridge at the Zero Point and has urged Pakistan to build a similar bridge on its side that will provide safe and secure movement of the pilgrims and address concerns regarding flooding.
The bridge is over a creek, of which the majority part falls in Pakistan.
Pakistan said it would build a mud-filled embankment, a move which would not only lead to flooding in areas on the Indian side but also pose a threat to the structure of the bridge, the sources added.
The creek floods during the monsoon when the Ravi river swells.
Another proposal put forth by Pakistan was to build a causeway, the sources said, adding that it was unacceptable to India as it would not provide an all-weather road.
They said the construction work at the site of passenger terminal complex at Dera Baba Nanak in India is on full swing.
The work has been planned to be completed by October 31 before the commemoration of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in November.
More than 250 labourers and 30 engineers are working at the site in three shifts, they said.
The terminal is being built on around 15 acres of land with comprehensive facilities to cater to approximately 5,000 pilgrims daily, the sources said.
The complex will have the robust security systems with CCTV surveillance and other advance security systems and adequate parking space for 10 buses, 250 cars, and 250 two- wheelers.
The area will be developed with amalgamation of rich Indian culture and state-of-the-art infrastructure with eye- soothing landscaping. More than Rs 500 crore will been spent for the development of this complex.
"On special days, we are expecting 10,000 pilgrims a day," one of the sources said.
The passenger terminal building is being constructed by the Land Ports Authority of India. The work for it was awarded to the Shapoorji Pallonji Group on May 29.
The land acquisition process has been completed with the support of the Punjab government and the project is scheduled to be completed by October 31. The total cost of the project is Rs 177.5 crore.
In November 2018, Pakistan agreed to set up the border-crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak, to Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district.
Kartarpur is located in Pakistan's Narowal district, about four km from Dera Baba Nanak.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had on November 26 last year laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur district.
Two days later, the Pakistani prime minister laid the foundation stone of the corridor in Narowal, around 125 km from Lahore.
With PTI Inputs