India on Thursday sought visa-free access from Pakistan for 5,000 pilgrims per day to the historic Sikh shrine in Kartarpur.
This was conveyed to the Pakistani delegation at a meeting here to discuss the opening of a planned corridor for pilgrims between Punjab’s Gurdaspur district and Kartarpur Sahib across the border.
“From our side, we have pressed for at least 5,000 pilgrims per day to be allowed to visit the holy Sikh shrine in the initial phase,” S C L Das, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, told reporters.
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.
India emphasised that the corridor should be absolutely visa-free, Das said.
“There should not be any additional encumbrances in the form of any documentation or procedure,” he added.
India also wants Pakistan to allow devotees who want to travel on foot to the shrine across the 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 Indian delegation was led by S C L Das, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Pakistani team was headed by Mohammad Faisal, Director General (SA & SAARC) of its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the statement said.
“Both sides held detailed and constructive discussions on various aspects and provisions of the proposed agreement and agreed to work towards expeditiously operationalising the Kartarpur Sahib corridor,” the statement said.
Technical experts from both sides discussed the alignment and other details of the proposed corridor.
The first meeting of officials of Pakistan and India to finalise the modalities of the landmark Kartarpur Corridor, held in the shadow of escalating bilateral tensions, was “constructive” and the discussions were held in a “cordial environment”, the Foreign Office said here.
Commenting on the meeting, the head of the Pakistani delegation and the Spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry Dr Mohammad Faisal said the deliberations were constructive.
“Pakistan Kartarpur Delegation returns after constructive discussion in a cordial environment,” he tweeted.
“First #Pakistan-#India Joint Press Statement after a long time,” Faisal noted.
It was agreed to hold the next meeting at Wagah on April 2. This 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, it said.