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Indo-Pak Kartarpur talks: India seeks visa-free access for pilgrims

Mar 14 (AZINS) The first round of talks between Indian and Pakistani officials on the modalities of Kartarpur corridor ended on Thursday with both sides now set to meet on 2nd April at Wagah on the Pakistani side.

The meeting discussed the modalities and the draft Agreement for facilitation of pilgrims using the Kartarpur Corridor.

A joint statement released by both sides said, "held detailed and constructive discussions on various aspects and provisions of the proposed agreement and agreed to work towards expeditiously operationalizing the Kartapur Sahib Corridor."

There will be a meeting of India-Pakistan technical experts who will meet on 19 March 2019 at the proposed zero points to finalize the alignment of the corridor.

Addressing a press conference, SCL Das, Joint Secretary, MHA on Indo-Pak meeting said, "We have also emphasised from our side that in the spirit of Kartarpur corridor, it should be absolutely visa-free. There should not be any additional encumbrances in the form of any additional documentation or procedures."

"We've strongly urged them to allow, bcos ppl from all over the country&world will be coming for all 7 days throughout the yr without any break, provide for a much higher size of 'jathhas' of visiting pilgrims by another 10,000 on special days like Gurupurab, Baisakhi," Das added.

Dr Mohammad Faisal, Pak delegation leader & spokesperson of Pak Mofa after crossing over to Pakistan said," The meeting has been positive. We have been able to move forward as the atmosphere was conducive."

While the Indian delegation was led by SCL Das, Joint Secretary (Internal Security) in MHA and Joint Secretary (PAI—Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) MEA, Deepak Mittal, the  Pakistan Delegation was led by Director-General South Asia and SAARC Dr Mohammad Faisal along with officials from Pakistan's interior, law and religious affairs ministry.

Pakistan had brought an 18 member delegation which include Dr Fareha Bugti, director India at the Pakistani foreign ministry, Dilshad Ahmad, Joint Secretary, Pakistan's interior ministry, Tahir Ehsan, Joint Secretary, chairman, Evacuee Trust Property Board, which takes care of Hindu and Sikh shrines in Pakistan, Brig M Akhtar Khan, Deputy DG Pakistan Rangers and Col Nadeem Afzal , Project deputy director , Kartarpur corridor.

In November 2018, both India and Pakistan approved the building of the corridor. The  Holy Gurudwara at Kartarpur is the place where the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak lived for 18 years. The 2019 year marks the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

Both India and Pakistan believe the corridor can help in "facilitating and fortifying" people-to-people bonds of the 2 countries.

Both sides have begun work on the corridor with Pakistani side completing 40 % of the work and India set to build a Rs 190 crore passenger bus terminal by September 2019.

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