Wagah (Pakistan): India and Pakistan on Sunday agreed to maintain a channel of communication and work towards finalisation of the Agreement on the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor and Islamabad was ‘requested’ to permit and facilitate ‘Nagar Kirtan’ from Delhi to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan in July and then again in October-November this year.
“The Pakistan side has been separately requested to permit and facilitate ‘Nagar Kirtan’ from Delhi to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan in July 2019 and then again in October- November 2019 that is proposed to be organised by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC),” an Ministry of External Affairs of Government of India said.
“It has also been proposed to Pakistan to allow 10,000 Indian pilgrims to visit Pakistan under the 1974 Protocol on the auspicious occasion of 550th Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji,” it said.
The statement gave details of the parleys held between officials of two sides on the modalities for operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor at Wagah.
“Progress was made in finalising the draft Agreement with regard to the modalities. It was agreed to allow visa free travel for the Indian passport holders and OCI card holders seven days a week”.
Throughout the year, the statement said 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara per day. “The pilgrims will be allowed to travel as individuals or in groups and also on foot. Pakistan highlighted the infrastructural constraints on their side and conveyed that they may be able to accommodate many of the Indian proposals in a phased manner”.
The statement made it clear that Pakistan was asked to ‘reconsider’ its position as Kartarpur Sahib Corridor is a long pending demand of the pilgrims and “there is expectation that Pakistan would be liberal in allowing more pilgrims and facilities for them through this corridor”.
The Indian delegation led by S CL Das, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, handed over a ‘dossier’ to Pakistan side to highlight concerns on security related matters.
“The Indian delegation has also sought consular presence in Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara to be able to provide assistance to the pilgrims, if required,” it said.
The Indian delegation comprised representatives from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Government of Punjab and the National Highway Authorities of India.
The statement said India urged Pakistan to take into consideration the sentiments of the pilgrims to have smooth, easy, unrestricted access throughout the year to be able to visit the Holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib.
There should be ‘no restrictions’ on the pilgrims in terms of their faith and 5,000 pilgrims be allowed to visit Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor everyday “given the expected high demand on our side”. It was further maintained that 10,000 additional pilgrims be allowed to visit on special occasions.
The statement said Indian side has insisted that not only Indian nationals, but also the Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) holding OCI cards be allowed to use the Kartarpur Corridor facility.
“…the movement should be visa free and Pakistan should reconsider charging any fee or introducing any permit system and the pilgrims should be allowed to visit throughout the year, seven days a week,” the statement said.
At the talks on Sunday, Pakistan side was led by Foreign Office spokesperson and DG South Asia Mohammad Faisal, who at the start of the meeting said that considerable extent of construction work on Kartarpur Corridor on Pakistan side has been completed.
Mr Faisal also said that Pakistan is fully committed to operationalising the Kartarpur corridor as desired and directed by Prime Minister Imran Khan on the 550th Birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.