By Muhammad Luqman
Pakistan is sticking with its plan to open the first visa-free border crossing with India to facilitate Sikh pilgrims despite tensions between the two South Asian nuclear-armed neighbours over the longstanding Kashmir dispute.
“The meeting on Kartarpur Corridor will take place soon,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman, Dr. Mohammad Faisal said at a weekly news briefing in the capital Islamabad on Thursday.
He said that Pakistan was committed to open the corridor in November on the 550th birth of Baba Gurunanak.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had opened the work on the corridor last year as part of Pakistan’s initiative to allow Sikh pilgrims from across India to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib.
The Shrine is located only a few kilometres from the border. The proposed corridor will allow Sikhs to visit the Shrine without a visa.
The recent tensions triggered by the Indian decision to revoke the special status of Kashmir have raised questions about whether the corridor would be opened as planned.
Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties and suspended bilateral trade with India, is still looking to stick with the plan. It is however not clear if Indian side would be willing to remain committed to the project, which many thought could help bridge differences between the two countries.
About reports of stranded Indians after the severing of rail and bus links with India, Faisal said he had no knowledge of any Indian citizens who were in Pakistan.
“But if there were, we are ready to facilitate them. They can go back on foot through Wagha border because the border crossing is open,” he clarified.
He also informed reporters about the steps taken by Pakistan to highlight the grave human rights situation in Kashmir. He said the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister had been reaching out to world capitals to brief them about the negative fallout of Indian move to abrogate the special status.
To another question, the spokesperson made it clear that Daesh had no organized presence in Pakistan.
In reference to India’s illegal Kashmir move, the FO said New Delhi is not willing to compromise on the Kashmir issue.
The spokesperson added that Pakistan has consistently been playing an active role in exposing Indian aggression on international forums, but India is not willing to compromise, making the two nations reach a standstill.
“We are at a standstill because India is not willing to put an end to the curfew or the brutalities.”
He said the world has been sensitised over the situation in Kashmir, further adding that Pakistan has approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the human rights abuse in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).
“Pakistan has always maintained a healthy relationship with the international community, and the international community is taking notice of all that is happening in IoK,” said Dr Faisal, adding that US President Trump’s calls to Islamabad and New Delhi shed light on how the international community is concerned about Kashmiris.
“We have offers of mediation from many countries, including the US. But India is not willing to meet us halfway.”
Dr Faisal reiterated how condemnable India’s actions are but said that India cannot enforce a curfew in Kashmir forever.
“Till when will India continue this? They cannot do this forever, this [curfew] has to end one day,” said Dr Faisal.