06:50 GMT24 July 2021
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): Pakistan and India, following the second round of bilateral talks at Wagah Border with Islamabad, have agreed that a daily visa-free access for 5,000 pilgrims will be granted to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan for entire year.

    As part of the agreement, Persons of Indian Origin (PIO), having overseas citizenship of India (OCI) identity cards will be allowed to use the corridor that will connect two key Sikh religious centres, Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur, India.

    Pakistan also assured India that it won’t allow pro-Khalistani elements, who seek to create a separate country for Sikhs, to use the corridor to support an anti-India movement. In May, India had raised concerns that Pakistan is promoting the interests of Khalistani groups under the pretence of creating a Kartarpur corridor.

    Pakistan had previously insisted on allowing a maximum of 500 to 700 pilgrims a day with a fee, and it was not clear if the corridor would remain open throughout the year.

    “Throughout the year, 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara every day. Pakistan highlighted the infrastructural constraints on their side, and conveyed that they may be able to accommodate many of the Indian proposals in a phased manner," Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar clarified in a statement. “There should be no restrictions on the pilgrims in terms of their faith."

    The Indian delegation also raised concerns over the possibility of flooding in Dera Baba Nanak and adjoining areas, located in Gurdaspur District in India's Punjab state near the flood plains of the Ravi River. Pakistan was urged to build a bridge on their side.

    Pakistan agreed to build a bridge over the Ravi Creek on their territory at the earliest, said the Ministry of External Affairs, with India offering to make interim arrangements to guarantee the corridor is operational at the start of celebrations begin in November, for the 550th birthday anniversary of Guru Nanak.

    Once the bridge is built, the corridor will connect the Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district and help in the visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims. The pilgrims will require just a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, an important Sikh shrine established in 1522 by the faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev.

    The Indian Sikh community has hailed the latest development.

    Manjinder Singh Sirsa, a politician and President of the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee, expressed his gratitude over the news and thanked the delegates for their successful meeting with Pakistan.


    The Indian delegation for the talks was led by the Home Ministry's Joint Secretary (Internal Security) SCL Das and the Foreign Ministry's Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) Deepak Mittal, while the 20-member Pakistani delegation was led by Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson of the Pakistani Foreign Ministry.

    Meanwhile, in a statement, the Indian Home Ministry said, the construction work on a four-lane highway connecting Dera Baba Nanak from Gurdaspur-Amritsar Highway to the international border, was progressing in full swing. Over 50 per cent of the construction work has been completed on the four-lane Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Highway, and the Highway will be completed by 30 September this year, an Indian news agency reported citing the Home Ministry officials on Sunday.



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