Pakistan being ‘inflexible’ on Kartarpur: India

NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan on Thursday held their first meeting to discuss the modalities and the draft agreement for facilitation of pilgrims to visit Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib using the Kartarpur corridor.

While both sides said in a joint statement that they had detailed and constructive discussions on the proposed agreement, ToI has learnt that serious differences have cropped up between them on the way they want the corridor operationalised.

India believes that Pakistan is not being flexible in dealing with issues like the number of pilgrims who would be allowed to visit the Gurudwara every day. While India has proposed that 5,000 pilgrims visit the shrine daily, and 15,000 on special days, Pakistan doesn’t want more than 500-700 per day.

Another sticking point is the issue of eligibility with the government insisting that all citizens of India and also OCI card holders be allowed to visit. Pakistan’s response though was that only Indian nationals visit the Gurudwara.

The third issue is that while India has proposed visa-free travel, Pakistan is learnt to have told Indian authorities that pilgrims obtain special permit on payment of fee.

While India wants pilgrims to be allowed to travel individually, Pakistan has proposed that they only travel in a group of 15 or more. India’s position also is that travel by foot be allowed but Pakistan apparently is not keen on it.

The government continues to maintain that its decision to work for opening of the corridor is in keeping solely with the aspirations and faith of the Sikhs and should not be seen as indicative of any desire on the part of India to consider resumption of the formal dialogue process.

It is also learnt that India in the meeting protested against encroachment on the land belonging to the Gurudwara. This land is said to have been donated by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Some of the land belonging to the Gurudwara has apparently also been acquired by the Pakistan government. India is learnt to have told Pakistan that this showed utter disregard for the sentiments of Guru Nanak devotees. It has demanded that the land be immediately restored to the Gurudwara.

Fortunately though, the two sides have agreed that people of all faiths be allowed to use the corridor. India has also proposed that the corridor remain open all 7 days of the week.

Both countries on Thursday also held expert level discussions between the technical experts on the alignment and other details of the proposed corridor.

“It was agreed to hold the next meeting at Wagah on 2 April 2019. This will be preceded by a meeting of the technical experts on 19 March 2019 at the proposed zero points to finalize the alignment,” said the joint statement.
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