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  India   All India  14 Mar 2019  Kartarpur talks today; India for visa-free access

Kartarpur talks today; India for visa-free access

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Mar 14, 2019, 6:59 am IST
Updated : Mar 14, 2019, 6:59 am IST

Government sources said that security considerations (for the pilgrimage) are always a “national concern” and that there would be “no dilution”.

New Delhi has also proposed that “a technical level discussion on the alignment of the corridors be held on the same day on the sidelines of this meeting”.
 New Delhi has also proposed that “a technical level discussion on the alignment of the corridors be held on the same day on the sidelines of this meeting”.

New Delhi: At the Indo-Pak talks on the Kartarpur Sahib corridor project in Attari in Punjab on Thursday, India is expected to ask Pakistan for visa-free access for Indian Sikh pilgrims to the historic Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara and nudge Islamabad to not use the Kartarpur shrine for propaganda on Khalistan.

Three months after the two countries agreed on the project, the talks come amid heightened tension between the two neighbours following India’s airstrike on a terrorist training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Pakistan’s subsequent retaliation.

India is keen to send a large contingent of pilgrims across the border in Pakistani Punjab in November this year for the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism and the first Guru of the Sikhs.

During the discussions, New Delhi is also expected to make it clear to Islamabad that Indian Sikh pilgrims should not be harassed during the pilgrimage by pro-Khalistan elements.

India wants its pilgrims to be insulated from any propaganda by Khalistani separatists, to prevent a repeat of incidents last year when there were reports that pro-Khalistan banners were shown to a group of Indian pilgrims while they were on their way to two Sikh shrines.

Government sources said that security considerations (for the pilgrimage) are always a “national concern” and that there would be “no dilution”.

“The (security) arrangements (for the pilgrimage) will be fool-proof and intrusion-free,” said a government source.

He said India and Pakistan would try to resolve the “mismatch” arising from both sides proposing different border crossing points for the pilgrims. Both sides are expected to discuss Kartarpur draft agreement and the “alignment” of corridors being built by both sides.

New Delhi has also proposed that “a technical level discussion on the alignment of the corridors be held on the same day on the sidelines of this meeting”.

India is already working on creating facilities for the “corridor” on its side from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur to the International Border with all modern amenities to facilitate movement of upto 5,000 pilgrims daily who will cross over into Pakistani Punjab.

The proposed infrastructure on the Indian side will include a 16,000 sq. metres “state of the art passenger terminal building complex” which will be a fully air-conditioned and equipped for seating 2,000 pilgrims and other amenities including kiosks, washrooms, first-aid medical facilities, snack counters and VIP lounges.

The design for the complex is inspired by the symbol “khanda” which stands for values of oneness and humanity, sources said. The Indian government has identified 50 acres of land for the corridor on its side.

Meanwhile, in response to claims that some designs in the complex may be “lotus-shaped”, sources said all the designs in the complex would represent the rich Indian cultural heritage.

In a statement issued earlier, the MEA said, “In keeping with the Government’s decision to operationalise the Kartarpur Corridor on the occasion of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji and meet the long pending public demand to have easy and smooth access to the holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, the first meeting between India and Pakistan to discuss and finalise the modalities for Kartarpur Corridor would be held at Attari-Wagah (Indian side) on March 14.”

It may be recalled that Pakistan had last month proposed different border-crossing coordinates from the one that India has proposed for the pilgrimage. The two sides will start discussions on what the final border-crossing coordinates will be. Pakistan had announced in January that it had shared the draft agreement with India to facilitate the visit of Sikh pilgrims.

Tags: kartarpur sahib corridor, indo-pak
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi