–FO spokesman says next meeting will be held at Wagah border crossing on April 2
ISLAMABAD: Amid soaring tensions in the aftermath of the Pulwama bombing, Pakistan and India have agreed to work expeditiously to complete operationalisation of the Kartarpur corridor after both sides held a meeting at Attari on Thursday.
The talks were aimed at sorting out modalities for the opening of the corridor between Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan and Gurdwara Baba Nanak in India for the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in December this year.
Both sides held detailed and constructive discussions on various aspects and provisions of the proposed agreement on the visa-free corridor, reaching a significant understanding on most issues, barring a few technicalities.
Foreign Office Spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal, who led the Pakistani delegation, told reporters that the meeting was held in a very cordial environment.
He termed the meeting itself an achievement, noting that the two countries had issued a joint statement after a gap of several years. He recalled that the two countries had last agreed on a joint statement in 2015.
Reading out the statement, he said, “Both sides held detailed and constructive discussions on various aspects and provisions of the proposed agreement and agreed to work towards expeditiously operationalising the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.”
“Both sides also held expert-level discussions between technical experts on the alignment and other details of the proposed corridor,” he said.
He added that the two sides have also agreed to hold the next meeting at Wagah on April 2, 2019, which will be preceded by a meeting of technical experts on March 19, 2019 at proposed zero points to finalise the alignment of the corridor.
Talking to media at Wagah before crossing over to Attari, the FO spokesman said the decision to hold the meeting with the Indian side was in line with Pakistan’s sincere efforts to de-escalate the situation for regional peace and stability.
He expressed hope that the initiative of Prime Minister Imran Khan would not only facilitate Sikhs, especially from India, but in the current vitiated situation it could be a step forward in a right direction from conflict to cooperation, animosity to peace, and enmity to friendship.
It may be mentioned here India had refused visas to Pakistani journalists to cover the meeting unlike the groundbreaking ceremony — held in Pakistan on Nov 28 — wherein at least 30 Indian reporters were present to cover the event.
The groundbreaking ceremony of the corridor in Pakistan was performed last year on Nov 28.
In January, Pakistan had 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.
Pakistan and India are going through a rough patch in their relationship after 44 Indian troops were killed in suicide bombing in Pulwama district of held-Kashmir.
Following the bombing, India launched airstrike inside Pakistani territory followed by Pakistani airstrike in occupied Kashmir, shooting down an Indian jet and capturing the pilot. Pakistan’s decision to release the pilot and international pressure eventually led to a de-escalation.