India, Pakistan to hold first meet on Kartarpur Corridor

India, Pakistan to hold first meet on Kartarpur Corridor

New Delhi: Indian and Pakistani officials will meet at Attari, near Amritsar, on Thursday to finalise modalities of the corridor to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, with India keen for visa-free access to the pilgrims to the historic shrine across the border.

The first-ever meeting on the issue, coming amid heightened tensions between both countries in the wake of Pulwama terror attack, will also discuss the alignment of the project as there is some mismatch in the coordinates.

Officials from Home, External Affairs and other ministries concerned of the two countries will attend the meeting.

Sources said that security aspect was of paramount importance and there will be no dilution in that.

They also said that Pakistan will also be conveyed that places of pilgrimage should not be used for separatist propaganda by anti-India elements. There have also been reports that Khalistan separatist groups could use the corridor route to push terrorists.

The meeting will take place exactly a month after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force troopers were killed, triggering India-Pakistan tensions.

India has made it clear that the meeting was in no way a resumption of a bilateral dialogue.

It has said the issue was related to emotions and sentiments of the Indian citizens of the Sikh faith and its decision regarding the meeting reflects a strong commitment to operationalize the corridor on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

The Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province, located 4.5 km from the border near the Dera Baba Nanak town in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, is significant for the Sikh community as it is here that the faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev spent 18 years of his life and was his final resting place.

The governments of India and Pakistan are trying to facilitate the travel of pilgrims to offer prayers at the gurdwara – a demand made by the Sikhs for the past over 70 years.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh wants “passport and visa-free ‘khule darshan’ for pilgrims”.

Meanwhile, the Indian government has already initiated development of the Passenger Terminal Building Complex at Dera Baba Nanak, with its design inspired by the symbol “Khand”, which symbolises values of oneness and humanity.

It will cater to about 5,000 pilgrims per day with provision to cater to additional 10,000 pilgrims during festivals.