NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan on Thursday set dates in March for their officials to meet and finalise a pact that will enable the Sikh pilgrims from India to cross over to the Kartarpur Sahib shrine in Pakistan’s Narowal area.
“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," said a twitter post by Mohammed Faisal, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman.
“We look forward to positive reciprocity from India," he said in a second post.
The Indian foreign ministry was quick to accept the Pakistani suggestion of dates.
“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," India foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in his Twitter post.
“For expeditious realisation of #kartarpurcorridor, India has also proposed technical level discussions between engineers on both sides without waiting for discussion on the modalities. We hope #Pakistan would positively respond & confirm coordinates of crossing point as well," Kumar added.
New Delhi had last month suggested 26 February and 7 March as dates for receiving a Pakistani delegation and sending an Indian team to Islamabad. This had come on the back of Pakistan submitting a draft agreement on the proposed movement across the corridor had laid a few conditions for movement of pilgrims from India. According to the draft pact, only Sikh pilgrims will be allowed to cross the border in batches of 15, with a cap of 500 devotees per day.
Devotees will have to carry their passports, which will be used as travel documents and as identity proof.
Pakistan has also asked for the names of those crossing over be sent seven days in advance for clearances and checks. However, it is the demand that the crossover be restricted to Sikh devotees alone that seems to be causing major concern in India.
In November, the two countries agreed to allow the travel of Sikh pilgrims from the town of Dera Baba Nanak in India to Gurdwara Darbar Singh Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism. The ground breaking ceremony for the corridor on the Indian side was done by Vice president Venkaiah Naidu while on the Pakistani side, it was done by prime minister Imran Khan.