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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday shared with India its draft of the proposed agreement on the Kartarpur corridor and called for initiation of negotiations for its finalisation.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office said: “The Government of Pakistan has shared the draft agreement between Pakistan and India for facilitation of Sikh yatrees (pilgrims) to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Narowal.”

The statement was accompanied by a short video titled “Development of Kartarpur Corridor” and 14 pictures showing development activity on the Pakistan side.

Pakistan is to construct the nearly four-kilometre-long corridor from the border to the Gurdwara in Kartarpur Sahib, whereas India is to construct and develop the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak, in East Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, to the international border.

New Delhi invited to urgently send a delegation to Islamabad to negotiate agreement

The agreement, which covers the operational details of the corridor that would provide visa-free access for Indian pilgrims to the Sikh shrine, was shared with the Indian government through its High Commission in Islamabad.

Although the agreement was not made public, according to some of the details leaked to media, it covers elements like emphasis on pilgrims respecting local laws and traditions during their stay on Pakistani territory, requirement of passport for using the corridor, assertion of Islamabad’s right to refuse entry into its territory, dealing with individuals considered a threat to security by sending them back or taking any other action, fixing the number of pilgrims allowed to visit the shrine in a day, and advance sharing of lists of pilgrims by Indian authorities.

The statement further said that the Indian government had been invited to “urgently send a delegation to Islamabad” for negotiating the agreement.

The Pakistani side has designated the director general (South Asia) division at the Foreign Office, Dr Muhammad Faisal, as its focal person on the issue. India has been asked to nominate its focal person.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had inaugurated the work on development of the corridor in November. Islamabad took the initiative of opening the corridor to narrow the trust deficit with New Delhi as it has been preventing the resumption of bilateral dialogue.

Although the gesture was generally welcomed in India, it failed to break the ice between the two neighbours.

On the day when the groundbreaking ceremony of the project was being performed in November and PM Khan was on that occasion calling for a forward-looking approach for resolution of bilateral disputes, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj poured cold water on hopes of progress in Pak-India ties after development on the corridor, saying it was not about resumption of bilateral dialogue.

The corridor is being constructed to coincide with the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, in November this year.

“This was in line with Islamic principles that advocate respect for all religions and Pakistan’s policy of promoting inter-faith harmony and religious tolerance and also in line with Quaid’s vision of a peaceful neighbourhood,” the FO statement said.

It reiterated its commitment to continuing efforts to bring peace and stability in the region.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2019