Pakistan Agrees On Visa-Free Entry, 5000 Pilgrims Daily; Major Takeaways
The Indian delegation was led by Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs S.C.L. Das, and comprised of 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 meeting discussed the modalities and draft Agreement for facilitation of Pilgrims on the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, as also the infrastructure being developed for the corridor and it reviewed the progress reached in the three rounds of technical meeting that were held in March, April and May 2019. They endorsed the crossing point /‘zero point’ coordinates that were agreed to at the technical level, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA informed in a detailed press release.
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. Pakistan was urged to also build a bridge on their side to address the flooding related concerns, but also ensure smooth, hassle free, all-weather pilgrimage to the Holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, throughout the year. Pakistan side agreed, in principle, to build a bridge at the earliest, the MEA 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. In this context, the following requests were reiterated:
- 5,000 pilgrims be allowed to visit Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor everyday given the expected high demand on the Indian side;
- 10,000 additional pilgrims be allowed to visit on special occasions;
- there should be no restrictions on the pilgrims in terms of their faith;
- 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;
- pilgrims should be allowed to visit throughout the year, seven days a week;
- pilgrims should have the choice to visit as individuals or in a group;
- pilgrims should have the choice to visit on-foot on pilgrimage to the holy shrine;
- provisions should be made for preparation and distribution of langar and prasad for the pilgrims.
The Ministry said that Pakistan assured the Indian delegation that no anti-India activity would be allowed, when the importance for ensuring safe and secure environment for the pilgrims was underscored
Both sides have agreed to maintain a channel of communication and work towards finalisation of the Agreement on Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. The technical teams would meet again to ensure a seamless connectivity for the Kartarpur corridor is operational in time so that the pilgrimage can begin in November 2019, the realease stated.