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Kartarpur Corridor talks: Pakistan, India disagree on number of pilgrims to be allowed to visit

Imran Khan and Navjot Singh Sidhu attend the stone-laying ceremony for the Kartarpur corridor. Photograph:( WION )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 14, 2019, 09.19 PM (IST) Written By: Sidhant Sibal

Pakistan and India found themselves disagreeing on a number of issues when they sat down at the Attari border on Thursday to discuss the Kartarpur corridor. Islamabad said it wanted to allow in only 700 pilgrims a day. They also wanted the pilgrims to be allowed in only on designated days and to pay for their visit.

The Indian delegation was led by SCL Das, Joint Secretary (Internal Security) in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Deepak Mittal, Joint Secretary (PAI — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) in the Ministry of External Affairs. Mittal had proposed that the corridor should be open to all Indian citizens as well as to people of Indian origin to which the Pakistani side, led by Dr Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson of Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and DG, South Asia and SAARC, saying that the corridor would be open only to Indian citizens.

Initially, Islamabad had been agreeable to letting only Sikh pilgrims visit the Kartarpur gurudwara — a proposal New Delhi dismissed saying it was a secular country and that therefore, all its citizens should be allowed to visit. Pakistan relented, accepting the Indian proposal.

Islamabad dragged its feet on the number of pilgrims. India has proposed that 5,000 pilgrims be allowed to visit every day; 10,000 to 15,000 pilgrims be allowed to visit on special days such as Guru Purab and Baisakhi; and that the corridor be open all seven days. Islamabad replied that only 700 people would be allowed to visit and that too on designated visiting days.

While both parties agreed the corridor would be visa-free, the Pakistani side said Indian pilgrims would require a special permit and should pay for their visit. 

Pakistan rejected Indian proposal that anyone can go individually or in a group with Islamabad saying they will allow only groups of 15. New Delhi had strongly taken travelling on foot which is an essential element of pilgrimage to which Islamabad was not keen.

Wion has learnt that area around the Karatrpur Gurudwara has been encroached by private people. Indian side asked for Pakistan to remove these encroachments immediately.

Story highlights

India would like to send in 5,000 pilgrims a day. Islamabad says it wants to allow in only 700 pilgrims a day on designated days and that they should pay for their visit.