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India Asks Pakistan to Allow Visa-Free Travel on Kartarpur Corridor For 5,000 Pilgrims Per Day

It was agreed to hold the next meeting at Wagah on April 2 and it will be preceded by a meeting of the technical experts on March 19 at the proposed zero points to finalise the alignment of the corridor, according to a joint statement.

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Updated:March 14, 2019, 5:36 PM IST
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Attari/New Delhi: In the shadow of escalating tension in their ties, India and Pakistan on Thursday held in a "cordial environment" their first meeting to finalise the modalities for a corridor linking Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistani town of Kartarpur with Gurdaspur district in Punjab.

A joint statement issued after the talks said both sides held detailed and constructive discussions on various aspects and provisions of the project and agreed to work towards expeditiously operationalising the Kartapur Sahib Corridor (KSC).

At a press conference, officials who were part of the delegation present in the meeting said that the Pakistani side was informed of the demand that 5000 pilgrims should be allowed to visit the shrine every day and the shrine should be open for Indian citizens and Indian-origin people. MHA joint secretary SCL Das said the figure of 5,000 pilgrims is only for the phase-1 of the project.

The government also sought visa-free travel for the pilgrims and that they should also be allowed to travel on foot, as the pilgrim site is not very far from the border.

The meeting took place on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border. "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," it said.

The meeting took place amid heightened tensions between the two neighbours following India's air strike on a terrorist training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Pakistan's subsequent retaliation.

It was agreed to hold the next meeting at Wagah on April 2 and it will be preceded by a meeting of the technical experts on March 19 at the proposed zero points to finalise the alignment of the corridor, according to the statement.

Last November, India and Pakistan agreed to set up the border crossing linking Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur - the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev - to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India's Gurdaspur district.

Kartarpur Sahib is located in Pakistan's Narowal district across the river Ravi, about four km from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine.

The Indian delegation at the meeting was led by SCL Das, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs while the Pakistani team was headed by Dr Mohammad Faisal, DG (South Asia and 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 operationalising the Kartapur Sahib Corridor," the statement said.

It said the two sides also held expert-level discussions between the technical experts on the alignment and other details of the proposed corridor.

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had on November 26 last year laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur district. Two days later, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the corridor in Narowal, 125 km from Lahore.

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