AMRITSAR: Pakistan and India on Thursday held their first meeting to discuss the modalities and draft agreement for facilitation of pilgrims to visit Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib using the Kartarpur Corridor. Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal, who was heading the Pakistani side during the bilateral dialogue, told reporters after the meeting that though differences persist on a few points, the meeting went well overall.
Technical experts from Pakistan and India also had a discussion on key matters, he said, adding that the meeting was held in a positive and conducive environment. The experts discussed issues relating to the corridor, its construction, road, and other technicalities.
Dr Faisal termed the meeting itself an achievement, noting that the two countries had issued a joint statement after a gap of several years. He recalled that the two countries had last agreed on a joint statement in 2015.
Reading out the statement, he said, “Both sides held detailed and constructive discussions on various aspects and provisions of the proposed agreement and agreed to work towards expeditiously operationalising the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. Both sides also held expert-level discussions between technical experts on the alignment and other details of the proposed corridor,” he read out.
He added that the two sides have also agreed to hold the next meeting at Wagah on April 2, 2019, which will be preceded by a meeting of technical experts on March 19, 2019 at proposed zero points to finalise the alignment of the corridor.
Meanwhile, addressing a media briefing after the talks got over, Indian 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.