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India & Pakistan make significant headway in Kartarpur corridor talks

The second rounds of talks between the officials of the two countries were held at Wagah on Sunday.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jul 15, 2019, 09.18 AM IST
Pakistan also assured that no anti-India activity would be allowed using the corridor. (In pic: Indian delegation returns from Pakistan after second round of talks)
Pakistan on Sunday agreed to allow visa-free travel for Indian passport holders and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) through the Kartarpur corridor, according to a government statement.

The second rounds of talks between the officials of the two countries were held at Wagah on Sunday. Pakistan has agreed to let 5,000 pilgrims visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara every day for all seven days a week. The pilgrims will be allowed to travel as individuals or in groups and also on foot, the statement said.

Pakistan wanted to levy a fee and limit the number of pilgrims to 500-700 a day. New Delhi had urged Islamabad to allow 5,000 pilgrims every day and 10,000 additional pilgrims on special occasions, with no restriction in terms of faith.

Pakistan highlighted infrastructural constraints on its side and conveyed that it may be able to accommodate many Indian proposals in a phased manner, including a bridge at the zero point. “The Pakistani side agreed, in principle, to build a bridge at the earliest,” the statement from the ministry of external affairs said. Pakistan had earlier proposed a causeway, instead of a bridge, on the border.

Pakistan also assured that no anti-India activity would be allowed using the corridor. “Concerns regarding individuals or organisations based in Pakistan who may try to disrupt the pilgrimage and misuse the opportunity to play with the sentiments of the pilgrims were shared. A dossier was handed over to Pakistan side to highlight concerns in the matter,” the statement said.

India had conveyed its strong concerns over the presence of pro-Khalistani elements in a 10-member committee Pakistan had set up for the Kartarpur project. Separatist leader Gopal Singh Chawla was subsequently dropped from the panel. He was the secretary-general of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which would facilitate the pilgrims after opening of the corridor.

India has also sought consular presence in the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara to assist the pilgrims. Both sides have agreed to maintain a channel of communication and work towards finalisation of the agreement on the corridor.

The officials have also been requested to permit and facilitate Nagar Kirtan from Delhi to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan’s Punjab province in July and in October/ November.

The construction work on the fourlane highway linking the Gurdaspur-Amritsar road to the border is in full swing with half of the job complete, a home ministry statement said.

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