Cordial meeting

Kartarpur corridor opens doors

ATTARI: Amid simmering tensions, officials from India and Pakistan held their maiden meeting here today to discuss modalities and the draft agreement on the Kartarpur Sahib corridor that will allow devotees access to the Sikh shrine in Narowal, across the border.

rchopra@tribunemail.com

GS Paul
Tribune News Service
Attari, March 14 

Amid simmering tensions, officials from India and Pakistan held their maiden meeting here today to discuss modalities and the draft agreement on the Kartarpur Sahib corridor that will allow devotees access to the Sikh shrine in Narowal, across the border.

The Indian delegation was led by SCL Das, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs. The Pakistan delegation was headed by Dr Mohammad Faisal, DG (SA and SAARC), Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After the meeting, a joint statement was issued which said the two sides had mutually agreed to work towards expeditiously operationalising the corridor. 

The next round of talks will be held at Wagah on April 2. These will be preceded by a meeting of technical experts on March 18 at Zero Point to remove flaws, if any, and finalise the logistics. 

The Pakistani officials were told to ensure that places of pilgrimage were not misused for propagating anti-India sentiments and the corridor was not used to push in infiltrators. 

Das said though the focus remained on facilitating hassle-free access to the shrine, the Pakistani delegates were told that “talks and terror cannot go hand in hand” and that this meeting should not be seen as a “resumption of bilateral dialogue”.

The meeting was held exactly a month after the February 14 Pulwama attack. Deepak Mittal, MEA Joint Secretary, said: “We emphasised that no activity could be allowed which was against the spirit with which the pilgrims would be going to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib. They assured us they would not let their soil be misutilised.”

Nidhi Khare, Joint Secretary, MHA, said the prime objective was completion of the first phase by September 2019 and visa-free entry. The Indian officials demanded that the pilgrims be also allowed to travel by foot. “Passport as the sole identification document was tentatively agreed upon,” she said.


India’s Demand

On number of pilgrims daily

  • Asked for 5,000 pilgrims to begin with and on special occasions, take the number of people to 15,000

Timing and period

  • Asked for keeping the corridor open from dawn to dusk on all 365 days in a year

Who all can be allowed

  • Asked for allowing all resident Indian citizens and also Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders

Encroachment of land around Gurdwara

  • Registered strong objection over rampant encroachment of land around the gurdwara and asked for its early restoration. The land was donated to the gurdwara by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and other eminent Sikh devotees over a period of time

Pakistan’s Response

On number of pilgrims daily

  • Wanted to restrict the number of pilgrims to 500 every day and was silent on the issue of special occasions

Timing and period

  • Wanted to limit the pilgrims’ visit only to visiting days and indicated that it should be done for three to four days a week

Who all can be allowed

  • Initially agreed to allow only Sikh pilgrims, but when persuaded agreed to allow Indian citizens only

Encroachment of land around Gurdwara

  • No specific assurance given on this count 

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