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.
According to MEA release the Indian delegation was led by Mr. S.C.L. Das, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Pakistan delegation was led by Dr. Mohammad Faisal, DG (SA & SAARC) of Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Both sides held detailed and constructive discussions on various aspects and provisions of the proposed agreement and agreed to work towards expeditiously operationalizing the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.
Both sides also held expert level discussions between the technical experts on the alignment and other details of the proposed corridor.
MEA statement said it was agreed to hold the next meeting at Wagah on 2 April 2019. This will be preceded by a meeting of the technical experts on 19 March 2019 at the proposed zero points to finalize the alignment.
Addressing a media briefing after the talks got over, home ministry joint secretary SCL Das, said that the government had placed three demands before the Pakistani delegation.
Among the three demands was that Pakistan allow at least 5,000 pilgrims to visit to the Gurdwara on a daily basis and that on special days, such as Gurpurab, baisakhi etc, it let as many as 10,000 pilgrims visit the shrine. The Indian government has also asked Pakistan to allow the Indian pilgrims, including non-resident Indians, visa free access to the Gurdwara and that if any pilgrims so desired, they be allowed to visit the shrine on foot.
“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,” Das said.
During the course of the meeting between both sides, it was also impressed upon the Pakistani delegation that there be no closed days for visiting the shrine and that it be kept open all seven days of the week, Das said.
Das said that the delegation from Pakistan assured that they would consider the requests and revert on them during the next round of talks.
Regarding the possibility of pro-Khalistani propaganda being disseminated at various Sikh shrines visited by Indians, Deepak Mittal, MEA joint secretary said, that it had been made clear to the Pakistan delegation that no such miscreant should be allowed.
“Our expectations were made clear to the Pakistan side that we would like them not to allow any miscreant. 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 Gurudwara,” Mittal said.
At the same time, Mittal also clarified that the talks on the Kartarpur corridor did not mean that a bilateral dialogue had begun between the two countries.
“Our position on the dialogue is very clear... Today what we had was a meeting on the issue of the Kartarpur corridor, with an objective that pilgrims can have an easy access to Kartarpur Sahib,” Mittal said.
The talks, exclusively on Kartarpur corridor modalities, took place a day after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that India cannot have a dialogue with Pakistan unless the neighbouring country acted against terror outfits on its soil.