India on Thursday urged Pakistan to provide visa-free access to 5,000 pilgrims a day initially, on all days of the week, to the Kartarpur shrine, PTI reported. India also said this provision should apply to Indians as well as people of Indian origin, Ministry of Home Affairs Joint Secretary SCL Das said after a meeting between the delegations of the two sides to discuss the Kartarpur corridor.
In a joint statement after the meeting, the Ministry of External Affairs said the two neighbours had held “constructive discussions” on various aspects of the Kartarpur corridor and agreed to rapidly operationalise the project. Both sides will again meet at Wagah on April 2 to take forth the discussions.
“We have also emphasised from our side that in the spirit of Kartarpur corridor, it should be absolutely visa-free,” Das said. “There should not be any additional encumbrances in the form of any additional documentation or procedures.”
This was the first meeting between both countries in connection with the corridor and was held at the Attari-Wagah border on the Indian side in Punjab. The meeting was held in a cordial environment and officials discussed the draft agreement to facilitate the passage of pilgrims to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, said the Ministry of External Affairs.
“Both sides held detailed and constructive discussions on various aspects and provisions of the proposed agreement and agreed to work towards expeditiously operationalising the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor,” it said. “Both sides also held expert level discussions between the technical experts on the alignment and other details of the proposed corridor.”
The Indian delegation was led by Das, while Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mohammad Faisal led the other side.
Ahead of the meeting on April 2, technical experts from both countries will meet at the proposed zero points on March 19 to finalise the alignment of the corridor.
Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary Deepak Mittal said the meeting does not mean bilateral dialogues with Pakistan have resumed, ANI reported. “Our expectations were made clear to Pakistan side that we would like them not to allow any miscreant,” he said. “We would not like them to allow any kind of activity which would be against the spirit with which pilgrims would be going to Kartarpur Gurdwara.”
The development comes amid strained ties between India and Pakistan following the Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14. Forty Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in the bombing.
In November 2018, New Delhi and Islamabad laid the foundation stone for the Kartarpur corridor project, which will connect Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Punjab with the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur area of Pakistan’s Narowal district. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, died in Kartarpur in 1539. The corridor will allow Indian Sikh devotees to travel without visas to the pilgrimage site.
In January, India shared the coordinates of the crossing point of the corridor along the International Border with Pakistan and had invited a delegation for talks. While Pakistan had rejected an initial suggestion to finalise an agreement as childish, it had proposed to send a delegation to India on March 13.