Monday, June 21, 2021

At cordial Kartarpur talks, India seeks visa-free entry for pilgrims to Pak

New Delhi, March 14: The first meeting between India and Pakistan experts to discuss the modalities and draft agreement for facilitation of pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib was held today in a “cordial environment”.
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.
The next meeting at Wagah will be held on April 2, 2019.
Technical experts from both the countries will, however, meet on March 19, 2019, at the “proposed zero points to finalise the alignment” a statement issued by the ministry of external affairs said.
The statement said that both sides held detailed and constructive discussions on various aspects and provisions of the proposed agreement. Both sides “agreed to work towards expeditiously operationalizing the Kartapur Sahib Corridor”, the statement said.
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 next meeting at Wagah will be held on April 2, 2019.
The Indian delegation was led by SCL 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.
Among the numerous things that the two sides were scheduled to discuss were the modalities and coordinates for the crossing point of the corridor on the international border as well as an agreement that would allow Indian pilgrims to travel without visas to visit the Gurdwara.
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.
The Kartarpur corridor talks come exactly a month after the Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF?men were killed. The Masood Azhar-led Jaish-e-Mohammad had claimed responsibility for the attack. This was followed up by an aerial strike of the IAF?on a Jaish camp at Balakot in Pakistan. A?day later, both the Indian air force and Pakistan air force were involved in an aerial engagement across the Line of Control. (HT)