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March 14, 2019

Pak-India talks on Kartarpur Corridor at Attari today

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March 14, 2019

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan and India meet this morning (Thursday) at Attari, to discuss the Kartarpur Corridor, this will be the first high-level bilateral meeting between the two sides after the recent Indian attack in Balakot and a counter attack by Pakistan with both sides stepping back only after Pakistan unconditionally released the captured Indian pilot. Both the high commissioners who had returned home are also now back in each other’s capital after completion of ‘consultations’.

Dr Muhammad Faisal, DG South Asia, will lead Pakistan’s delegation which will also include members of a technical team which will hold a meeting on the sidelines.

The Indian side will be led by Joint Secretary SCL Das from the Home Ministry, with India saying that it has two expectations from Pakistan-India meeting on Kartarpur. First, reaching an understanding on the essential features of the draft that has been exchanged by the two sides, and secondly, setting up of the border infrastructure.

“Pakistan hopes that keeping the Kartarpur spirit, the meeting will being a change for the better for people of both countries,” commented Dr Faisal who is also the spokesman at the Foreign Office.

The meeting will try to finalise setting up and finalising modalities of the Kartarpur Corridor between the two countries so that Sikh devotees would be able to observe the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev at Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib.

The project connects two Sikh holy sites — Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Pakistan and Dera Baba Nanak in India.

Instead of meeting in New Delhi where such delegations usually meet, this time the Indian government had set up the meeting at Attari, where normally meetings between Rangers-BSF and the Director Generals of Military Operations are held.

“It is a clear signal that India is agreeing to meet for the sake of the Sikh community, especially on the eve of elections, but it does not want to send a message to the public that it has de-escalated completely by suggesting Attari instead of Delhi as a meeting point,” an official told The News.

“It is not any resumption of bilateral talks, let me make it very clear that it is not in any way a resumption of a bilateral dialogue. It is related to emotions and sentiments of the Indian citizens of the Sikh faith and our decision to meet reflects our strong commitment to operationalise the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on the occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesman at Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said earlier.

Meanwhile, Dr Faisal raised the issue of India denying visas to Pakistani journalists hoping to cover the Attari meeting.

“More than 30 Indian journalists covered the Kartarpur ground breaking ceremony in Pakistan last year. They also met Prime Minister Imran Khan and were hosted by the foreign minister for a dinner during their stay in keeping up with Pakistan’s Kartarpur spirit. It is regrettable that India has not given visas to Pakistani journalists for the Kartarpur meeting,” he commented.

Though the Indian Ministry of External Affairs did not come on record but Indian media quoting ‘sources’ said that the reason visas were not issued to Pakistani journalists was because Attari was a technical meeting and not a public ceremony or event.

The attitude of the two countries as they walk into the talks could not be more different. While Pakistan is trying to make a fresh start and talking about betterment of the two people, India according to its media said it would take up with Pakistan the issue of insulating Indian pilgrims from pro-Khalistan propaganda during visits to shrines in Pakistan.

While Pakistan has officially communicated to India that it would be looking forward to a return visit from them on March 28, so far Delhi has made no mention of this return visit to Pakistan.

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