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Positive progress made in Pakistan, India meeting

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan/NEW DELHI, India

Pakistan and India second round of talks on Kartarpur corridor, a key border crossing for Sikh pilgrims, on Sunday has ended with positive developments, Pakistani officials said.  

The second round of talks between Pakistan and Indian officials held at Wagah border on Sunday.

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Pakistani delegation was led by Director General South Asia and Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Mohammad Faisal while Indian side was led by SCL Das joint secretary of home affairs.

“Today’s meeting was very positive and in my opinion both side has been agreed on over 80% details of proposed agreement,” Mohammad Faisal told reporters, aired on state-run PTV News.

The remaining issues would be resolved in next meeting, he hoped.

However, Faisal refused to share the details of proposed agreements and said it’s international norms that no country shares details of any agreement with other country until final agreement was reached.

Pakistani delegation also planted a “peace sapling” at Wagah border, however, Indian delegation didn’t take part in the ceremony.

“We invited the Indian delegation to plant a ‘peace plant’ at the border but they left due to shortage of time,” Faisal explained.

He added that Pakistan wants peace in the region and his country is fully committed to materializing Kartarpur Sahib corridor into reality for 550th birth anniversary of Bab Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

In November last year, Islamabad and New Delhi had agreed to open Kartarpur crossing for Sikh pilgrims ahead of 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion, to be held this year in Pakistan.

Kartarpur border connects Pakistan’s northeastern Narowal city to India’s eastern Gurdaspur district.

Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara situated in Narowal — some 115 kilometers (71 miles) from the provincial capital Lahore — is one of the most revered temple for the Sikh community as Baba Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life there.

The distance between the temple and Gurdaspur is merely 3 kilometers (2 miles) but the closure of this crossing costs Sikh pilgrims from India to travel hundreds of kilometers, via Amritsar and Lahore, to reach here. 

Pakistan’s northeastern Punjab province is home to the five most important pilgrimage sites for Sikhs. They include the birthplace of Baba Guru Nanak, who was born in 1469 in Nankana Saheb district, and Gurdwara (monastery) Punja sahib in Hasan Abdal town, where the handprint of Guru Nanak is believed to be imprinted on a boulder at the monastery. 

India’s proposal for a bridge

During the meeting, India requested Pakistan to allow visa free travel for the Indian passport holders and OCI card holders seven days a week. They have asked 5,000 pilgrims be allowed to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara per day throughout the year.

The meeting also discussed the modalities and draft agreement for facilitation of Pilgrims on the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, as also the infrastructure being developed for the corridor.

The Indian side conveyed concerns regarding the possible flooding of the Dera Baba Nanak and adjoining areas on the Indian side as a result of earth filled embankment road or a causeway that is proposed to be built by Pakistan on their side, said a statement of Ministry of External Affairs.

The Indian delegation shared detailed flood analysis with Pakistan to underscore these concerns.

Details of the bridge that India is building on its side were shared, and Pakistani side was urged to also build a bridge on their side. This would not only address the flooding related concerns, but also ensure smooth, hassle free, all-weather pilgrimage to the Holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, throughout the year.

Pakistani side agreed, in principle, to build a bridge at the earliest.

India also offered to make interim arrangements for making the corridor operational in November 2019, given the historic importance of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, added the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

The importance for ensuring safe and secure environment for the pilgrims was underscored.

In this context, concerns regarding individuals or organizations 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 Pakistani side to highlight concerns in the matter.

”The Indian delegation has also sought consular presence in Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara to be able to provide assistance to the pilgrims, if required. Pakistani side assured our delegation that no anti-India activity would be allowed,” added the statement.

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