India seeks visa-free travel for Kartarpur pilgrims

Stating that about 5,000 pilgrims should be allowed to visit Gurudwara Darbar Sahib shrine in Pakistan town of Kartarpur every day, Indian officials asked their Pakistan counterpart to facilitate visa-free travel for them. They also sought that they should be allowed to travel on foot, as the pilgrim site is not very far from the border.

In the shadow of escalating tension in their ties, India and Pakistan today held in a “cordial environment” their first meeting to finalise the modalities for a corridor linking 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).

MHA joint secretary SCL Das said the figure of 5,000 pilgrims is only for the phase-1 of the project. The meeting took place on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border, 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.

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