Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday said the construction of a land corridor that will allow Indian pilgrims to cross over to Pakistan is expected to be completed by November, in time for Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary celebrations.
“Most of the issues have been resolved and things are moving in the right direction. There is an expectation that there is a deadline out there that we have to meet," Jaishankar told reporters.
Last year, India and Pakistan announced they would construct the Kartarpur corridor that will connect Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur —where Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak spent the last years of his life —with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of Punjab.
India is to build facilities on its side of the border while Pakistan is to construct infrastructure on its side to facilitate visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will only have to obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib.
On Monday, a Pakistani official quoted by PTI news agency said 86% of the work on the corridor had been completed and that it will be opened on 9 November.
Despite a spike in tensions between India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir, analysts said the corridor could open the doors for talks between the two countries if they decide to do so.
On Tuesday, Jaishankar slammed Pakistan for using terrorism as an instrument of state policy against India. India, he said, has a “unique challenge" from a neighbour which needs to behave normally and take action against cross-border terrorism.
“We have a unique challenge from one neighbour and that would remain a challenge until that neighbour becomes a normal neighbour and acts against cross-border terrorism," he said.
Reacting to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s reported statement that there was no use talking to India, Jaishankar said: “Part of the problem with Pakistan is that it has only been doing talking, that it has not been doing anything about terrorism. They think that nice words are an answer to the real problem and the real problem is the dismantlement of the industry that they have created... Show me any country in the world that will accept that its neighbour can conduct terrorism and they can go and talk to the neighbour. Our position is completely normal and rational. They are the set of people whose behaviour is an aberration."
Jaishankar ruled out any meeting between Khan and Modi in New York. Both leaders are to address the UN General Assembly session on 27 September.
The issue with Pakistan, he said, was terrorism. “What should come on the table is the terrorism issue which is the root cause of the state of the relationship. I think there has to be a recognition of that," Jaishankar said.
Asked what he would say to his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi when he meets him at the customary South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the minister replied: “We will see when that happens."
Where Saarc is concerned, his understanding was this that the grouping is about regional cooperation which includes trade and connectivity.
“You don’t need terrorism. So, if you were to look at the future of Saarc, which country today is promoting Saarc and which country is not, I think that is an issue that everyone needs to reflect on. I am pretty confident every other member of Saarc knows the answer to that."
Asked whether India will focus on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir after revoking Article 370, Jaishankar said PoK was part of India and “We expect one day we will have physical jurisdiction over it."