Source : The Times of India, Last updated : 14 Mar 2019,5:09 pm

India seeks visa-free access for pilgrims to Kartarpur shrine -

India seeks visa-free access for pilgrims to Kartarpur shrine -
NEW DELHI: During the Kartarpur meeting on Thursday, India sought visa-free access for 5,000 pilgrims per day to Kartarpur gurdwara in Pakistan.

This was conveyed to the Pakistani delegation at a meeting to discuss the opening of a planned corridor for pilgrims between Punjab's Gurdaspur district and Kartarpur Sahib across the border.

India also suggested that pilgrims be allowed to travel on foot to Kartarpur shrine, and that the corridor should remain open for seven days a week.

During the press briefing, SCL Das, joint secretary, MHA said that India emphasised 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," he added.

This was the first meeting between an Indian and a Pakistani delegation since tensions between the two countries spiked after the terror attack in Pulwama, followed by retaliatory air strikes.

Das said Delhi wanted access for both Indians and people of Indian origin to the shrine, located where Sikhism's founder Guru Nanak Dev spent the last years of his life.

“We have also strongly urged them to allow the visit of pilgrims for all seven days a week without any break,” he said after the meeting.

The meeting took place on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border.

A statement earlier said the first meeting between officials of India and Pakistan to discuss the modalities for opening the Kartarpur corridor was held in a "cordial environment". +

"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.

The Indian delegation at the meeting was led by SCL Das 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.

(With agency inputs)
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