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March 15, 2019

India wants visa-free entry for 5,000 pilgrims daily


March 15, 2019

NEW DELHI: After holding talks on Kartarpur Corridor, India believes that Pakistan is not being flexible in dealing with issues like the number of pilgrims who would be allowed to visit the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib every day. While India has proposed that 5,000 pilgrims visit the shrine daily, and 15,000 on special days, Pakistan doesn't want more than 500-700 per day.

Another sticking point is the issue of eligibility with the government insisting that all citizens of India and also OCI card holders be allowed to visit. Pakistan's response though was that only Indian nationals visit the Gurdwara.

The third issue is that while India has proposed visa-free travel, Pakistan is learnt to have told Indian authorities that pilgrims obtain special permit on payment of fee. While India wants pilgrims to be allowed to travel individually, Pakistan has proposed that they only travel in a group of 15 or more. India's position also is that travel by foot be allowed but Pakistan apparently is not keen on it.

It is also learnt that India in the meeting protested against encroachment on the land belonging to the Gurdwara. This land is said to have been donated by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Some of the land belonging to the Gurdwara has apparently also been acquired by the Pakistan government. India is learnt to have told Pakistan that this showed utter disregard for the sentiments of Guru Nanak devotees. It has demanded that the land be immediately restored to the Gurdwara.

Taking a big ‘U-Turn’ India has said on Thursday that India is not prepared to talk to Pakistan on terror even. Changing its goal-post New Delhi has asked Pakistan, “We do not want to talk on terror, we want action on it.” It has been India’s official position for last five years, asking Pakistan to talk on terror but now India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has plainly said on Thursday that “India cannot have dialogue with Pakistan unless the neighbouring country acted against terror outfits on its soil.”

“We do not want talk on terror, we want action on it. Terror and talks cannot go together,” she said.

Swaraj also questioned Pakistan’s retaliation to the Indian air strikes in Balakot when, she said, India had specifically targeted the terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Ms. Sushma Swaraj statement is in line with the policy of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi election campaign who has made the so-called claim as his electioneering base.

Indian opposition and even some ultra right leaders of that country are disputing the claims made by the Indian administration on this count. The Hindustan Times reported Thursday that Indian minister for external affairs has said that “If Imran Khan is so generous and a statesman, he should give us Masood Azhar.”

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