The third round of talks between India and Pakistan on the Kartarpur corridor project began at the Attari border on Wednesday but no formal agreement could be signed, News18 reported. A 20-member delegation led by Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal met Indian delegates at the border post.
Pakistan reportedly insisted on charging a service fee for allowing pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib. India has rejected the demand, according to IANS. India’s Ministry of External Affairs said the demands were not fit for smooth and easy access of corridor.
“We hope good sense prevails and both the issues are resolved, particularly that of service fee,” Joint Secretary in Home Ministry, SCL Das was quoted as saying by IANS.
Union Minister Harsimrat Badal said she was shocked to see Pakistan make such demands. “They want to charge a community which wants to offer prayers,” she was quoted as saying by News18. “It’s evident that they are trying to create roadblocks, as the plan has been in the works for one-and-a-half years and only two months are left for the corridor to open.”
“We are hopeful to give a final shape to the draft agreement of Kartarpur corridor in today’s talks with India,” Faisal told reporters before the meeting. “Some 90% work on the project has been completed and Pakistan is committed to opening the corridor in November.”
Faisal said Pakistan is positive about the outcome of the third round of talks. “Pakistan has decided to open the corridor on the wish of the Sikh community,” he said. “Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken the initiative for the minority community.”
An unidentified official earlier told PTI that the names of those who will attend the opening ceremony of the corridor are likely to be finalised at the meeting. “Besides, the meeting may also finalise how many Sikhs from India will come to Pakistan on the opening ceremony of the corridor,” the official said. India and Pakistan had failed to reach a consensus on many matters during an earlier meeting on July 14.
The last meeting between the two delegations was held at Zero Point in Punjab on August 30. The Kartarpur Zero Point is the point at which the Indian and Pakistani sides of the corridor will converge.
That was the first meeting between the two sides since the Indian government scrapped special status for Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5, leading to heightened tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.
At the meeting in July, the Indian delegation asked for consular presence in the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara so that pilgrims can be provided assistance. The Ministry of External Affairs said Pakistan has agreed on visa-free travel for Indian passport holders and Overseas Citizenship of India card holders for seven days a week.
New Delhi and Islamabad laid the foundation stone of the project last November. The corridor will connect Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab with the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in the Kartarpur area of Pakistan’s Narowal district. The corridor will allow Indian Sikh devotees to travel to the pilgrimage site without visas.
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