Pakistan, India agree on team visits to reach Kartarpur deal

Updated February 08, 2019

Email

Sikh Pilgrims partake in Langar in front of Kartarpur Gurdwara Sahib after the groundbreaking ceremony of Kartarpur crossing in Nankana Sahib. — AFP
Sikh Pilgrims partake in Langar in front of Kartarpur Gurdwara Sahib after the groundbreaking ceremony of Kartarpur crossing in Nankana Sahib. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: After a bit of wrangling over the venue of talks on Kartarpur Corridor Accord, Pakistan and India on Thursday finally agreed in principle on reciprocal visits of officials for negotiating and finalising the agreement with Pakistani delegation set to travel to Delhi on March 13 for initiating the process.

“We welcome the visit of Pakistan team to discuss and finalise modalities for facilitating visit of pilgrims through Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on 13 March 2019 to India. Follow up meeting can be held in Pakistan, as required,” Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

His tweet came almost an hour after a tweet by his Pakistani counterpart and focal person for talks on Kartarpur, Dr Muhammad Faisal, proposing to India visits of officials in March for negotiating the accord before finalising it on March 28.

Read more: India tries to blunt Pakistan’s initiative, sends own invite

“In a spirit of constructive engagement Pakistan has proposed to India that the Pakistan delegation may visit India on 13 March followed by the return visit of the Indian delegation to Pakistan on 28 March to finalise the draft agreement for the Kartarpur corridor,” Foreign Office spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal said.

Islamabad last month shared its draft of corridor accord with New Delhi

He hoped that India would positively reciprocate to the latest proposal from Islamabad.

Pakistan last month shared its draft of Kartarpur Corridor Accord with India and invited its delegation for a visit for negotiating the document, which would govern operations of the corridor meant to provide visa-free access to Indian Sikh pilgrims to the Gurdwara in Kartarpur Sahib (Narowal district). The corridor is planned to be opened for Sikh pilgrims this year in commemoration of the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.

India, however, instead of accepting the proposal on that occasion, insisted on hosting the meeting and asked Pakistani officials to visit Delhi either on Feb 26 or March 7. Although the counter-proposals from Islamabad and Delhi had given the impression of a sort of standoff on the issue, Islamabad had, instead of reacting to the position taken by India in response to its original suggestion, vowed to “take the process forward”.

In addition to the official-level talks, India also proposed technical discussions on the corridor.

“For expeditious realisation of the Kartarpur Corridor, India has also proposed technical-level discussions between engineers on both sides without waiting for discussion on modalities. We hope Pakistan would positively respond and confirm coordinates of crossing point as well,” Kumar further said.

The Indian external affairs ministry had previously said that it had shared the coordinates of the zero point (crossing point) of the corridor along the International Border with Pakistan.

The groundbreaking ceremony of the corridor in Pakistan was performed on Nov 28. Indian government had sent two cabinet ministers — Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Shri Hardeep Singh — to participate in the ceremony.

Despite hesitatingly working with Pakistan on Kartarpur Corridor, India has continued to refuse to agree to resumption of dialogue process, which has been on hold since 2012. Delhi says it will not commit to resumption of bilateral dialogue unless its concerns about terrorism are addressed.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in an interview with Sky News said: “I’m telling the Indians ‘Let’s sit and talk’. I’m ready. Are they?”

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2019