New Delhi: Officials of India and Pakistan on Thursday held ‘detailed and constructive’ discussions on Kartarpur corridor. The two countries also decided to hold a meeting of the technical experts on March 19, which will be followed by another round of talks on the issue on April 2.
Speaking to media after the meeting, SCL Das, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that India pressed on the need for arranging the visit of at least 5000 pilgrims per day initially in the first phase of the project.
“We’ve strongly urged them to allow, because people from all over the country and world will be coming for all 7 days throughout the year without any break, provide for a much higher size of ‘jathhas’ of visiting pilgrims by another 10,000 on special days like Gurupurab, Baisakhi,” Das stated.
He added,”We have also emphasised from our side that in the spirit of Kartarpur corridor, it should be absolutely visa free. There should not be any additional encumbrances in the form of any additional documentation or procedures.”
Earlier in the day, a joint statement issued after the talks said,”The first meeting to discuss the modalities and the draft Agreement for facilitation of pilgrims to visit Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib using the Kartarpur Corridor was held today at Attari, India in a cordial environment. Both sides held detailed and constructive discussions on various aspects and provisions of the proposed agreement and agreed to work towards expeditiously operationalizing the Kartapur Sahib Corridor.”
It further read,”Both sides also held expert level discussions between the technical experts on the alignment and other details of the proposed corridor. It was agreed to hold the next meeting at Wagah on 2 April 2019.”
Meanwhile, the Indian delegation is scheduled to visit Islamabad on March 28, according to Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Meeting Comes exactly a month after the Pulwama terror attack
The meeting which took place at Attari comes amid ongoing tensions between the two neighbours after the deadly Pulwama attack on February 14. In the attack, a suicide bomber, Adil Dar, belonging to the Pak-based terrr group Jaish-e-Moahmmed (JeM), had rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into one of the vans of a CRPF convoy at the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, killing at least 40 jawans.
The meeting started after the arrival of the Pakistani delegation via the Attari-Wagah joint check post land border.
It is being held at the Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Attari on the Indian side.
Officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), National High Authority of India and other related departments represent the Indian side at the talks. While, Pakistan has sent an 18-member team headed by its Foreign Office’s Director-General of South Asia, Muhammad Faisal, who is also the Foreign Office spokesperson.
Significance of Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara
The Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province, located 4.5 km from the border near the Dera Baba Nanak town in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, is significant for the Sikh community as it is here that Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev spent 18 years of his life and is his final resting place. The governments of India and Pakistan are trying to facilitate the travel of pilgrims to offer prayers at the gurdwara — a demand made by the Sikhs for the past over 70 years.