The United States on Tuesday welcomed the construction of the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims saying that it “supports” anything that increases people-to-people ties between India and Pakistan.
US Department of State spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said that it was a “good” news report adding that the US “encourages” such kind of steps.
On July 14, India and Pakistan concluded the second round of technical-level talks on the modalities for the operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor at which Pakistan assured the Indian side that it would not allow anti-India activity at the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara.
Islamabad’s assurance came after New Delhi expressed fears that Pakistan-based individuals and organisations might try to disrupt the pilgrimage or play with the sentiments of pilgrims, according to a press release issued by the External Affairs Ministry.
The importance of ensuring a safe and secure environment for the pilgrims was underscored by the Indian side at the talks between top officials of the two countries held at Wagah on Pakistan’s side of the border. A dossier was also handed over to Pakistan by India to highlight its concerns.
The meeting discussed the modalities and draft agreement for the facilitation of pilgrims on the corridor, as also the infrastructure being developed there.
India urged Pakistan to take into consideration the sentiments of the pilgrims to have smooth, easy, unrestricted access throughout the year to be able to visit the gurdwara. In this context, India requested that 5,000 pilgrims be allowed to visit the gurdwara using the corridor every day given the expected high demand on the Indian side; 10,000 additional pilgrims be allowed to visit on special occasions; there should be no restrictions on the pilgrims in terms of their faith; not only Indian nationals but also the Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) holding OCI cards be allowed to use the corridor facility; the movement should be visa-free and Pakistan should reconsider charging any fee or introducing any permit system; pilgrims should be allowed to visit throughout the year all seven days a week; pilgrims should have the choice to visit as individuals or in a group; pilgrims should have the choice to visit on-foot on pilgrimage to the holy shrine; and provisions should be made for preparation and distribution of langar and prasad for the pilgrims.
The second round of talks was originally scheduled for April 2, but India raised objections to the presence of pro-Khalistani leader Gopal Singh Chawla in the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) panel.
Following India’s objection, Pakistan removed Chawla from the panel a day ahead of the meeting. However, the PSGPC has included another known pro-Khalistani leader, Ameer Singh, in the panel.
Despite tensions in bilateral ties, both India and Pakistan have expressed their commitment to expedite the progress on the Kartarpur corridor to ensure that it was operationalised in time for the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak in November.