Pakistan to allow 5,000 Sikh pilgrims to visit Kartarpur this year


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will allow 5,000 Sikh pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur this year.

In a statement issued after the conclusion of the third round of talks between Pakistan and India on Kartarpur Corridor in Attari, India, on Wednesday, Foreign Office Spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal said that the Sikh pilgrims would be issued special cards instead of visas to visit their religious site on the special occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.

He said that talks between Pakistan and India on Kartarpur Corridor were held in a positive environment despite tension in relations between the two countries over the Kashmir crisis.

He said the two sides have almost agreed to the draft agreement on the operationalisation of Kartarpur Corridor except for two or three points.

The spokesperson said that most of the obstacles have been overcome and the Indian side will have to demonstrate political flexibility to address the remaining issues.

Dr Faisal said that Pakistan has invited the Indian side for a final meeting on our side of the border to resolve the remaining sticking points. The spokesperson said that Pakistan has completed 90 per cent work on the Kartarpur Corridor and it is committed to opening the corridor on the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.

The FO spokesperson revealed that Pakistan was planning to arrange a media visit to the area this month so that they could see the roads, entry points and other progress that has been made.

Wednesday’s meeting comes days after Pakistani and Indian delegations held a round of technical level talks on the corridor at the border, more commonly known as the ‘Zero Point’.

After the conclusion of the second round of talks in July, Pakistan had claimed that it had made headway on “80 per cent and beyond” issues regarding the opening of the corridor.

The Kartarpur Corridor, a peace initiative of the Pakistani government, is being constructed to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. The corridor will provide Indian Sikhs visa-free access to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan.

To work out modalities for the opening of the corridor, a Pakistani delegation visited Attari where a meeting was held with Indian officials on March 14. While the next round of talks was scheduled for April 2 at Wagah, India pulled out of it over reservations that pro-Khalistan activists such as Gopal Chawla and Bisan Singh had been included in Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee — a body that works for facilitating Sikh pilgrims.

The Indian Ministry for External Affairs on that occasion had stated: “The next meeting on the modalities can be scheduled at an appropriate time after receiving Pakistan’s response.” Pakistan’s FO had then regretted the Indian decision to cancel the meeting.

The much-delayed second round of talks was subsequently held on July 14.