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ISLAMABAD: Frustrated over India’s refusal to grant visas to Pakistani journalists for the coverage of Pakistan-India negotiations on the Kartarpur agreement, the Foreign Office prepared for the talks scheduled for Thursday with the hope that the parleys would lead to a better future for the people of the two countries.

“Hope the #PakKartarpurSpirit & meeting tomorrow will bring a change for the better for people of both countries,” FO spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal tweeted on Wednesday.

Indian and Pakistani delegations will meet at Attari on Thursday to negotiate the agreement that will govern the upcoming Kartarpur corridor. The Pakistani delegation is being led by the FO spokesperson and director general for South Asia and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation at the FO.

The officials’ meeting will be followed by a technical session to discuss the alignment of the infrastructure.

The groundbreaking ceremony of the corridor was performed in November 2018 after Delhi agreed to a Pakistani proposal for providing Sikhs of India visa-free access to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.

Kartarpur corridor has become one of the election issues in Sikh-dominated areas in India. Delhi could not control its unwillingness from affecting the atmospherics of the meeting. It first fixed Attari as venue of the talks instead of meeting the Pakistani delegation in Delhi. Later, it refused to give visas to Pakistani journalists.

Nearly 131 journalists and technical crews of media groups had planned to cover the talks.

“Regrettable that #India has not given visas to #Pakistani journalists for the #Kartarpur meeting tomorrow,” Dr Faisal tweeted while expressing his unhappiness over the refusal of visas to journalists. He recalled how Pakistan had hosted the Indian journalists on the occasion of groundbreaking ceremony of the corridor.

Indian ministry for external affairs spokesman Raveesh Kumar in his media interaction drew a distinction between the talks on the Kartarpur corridor and a bilateral dialogue.

“Let me make it very clear that Kartarpur talks are not in any way related to resumption of dialogues,” Mr Kumar said. About refusal of visas to Pakistani journalists, Indian officials said the meeting in Attari was not a public event.

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2019