India resents Pakistan offer on Kartarpur

New Delhi objects to land encroachment by Pakistan and its proposal to introduce fee for pilgrims

Updated - March 16, 2019 07:42 am IST

Published - March 15, 2019 09:51 pm IST - New Delhi

 MEA Joint Secretary S.C.L. Das speaking after a meeting with the Pakistan team, in Attari, on Thursday.

MEA Joint Secretary S.C.L. Das speaking after a meeting with the Pakistan team, in Attari, on Thursday.

A day after India and Pakistan discussed the draft agreement for the Kartarpur corridor at Attari, officials said on Friday that despite promising visa-free access to the Sikh shrine, Pakistan through back door wanted to introduce “special permits for pilgrims for a fee.”

India also strongly protested against the encroachment of around 100 acres of land belonging to the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in the Pakistani territory that was donated by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh in the 19th century.

Pakistan restricted the duration of the agreement to two years, said an official.

A senior government official said that against the hype created by the Pakistan government and the Pakistani media on the Kartarpur corridor, its actual offer during the talks turned out to be “farcical and mere tokenism.”

“There is a sea of difference between what Pakistan, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, had announced and what they offered at Attari,” said the official.

Sikh bodies have been petitioning both the governments to build a pilgrim corridor over the border from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur to Kartarpur in Pakistani Punjab’s Narowal province. The plan is to complete the project by November 23, 2019, the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, who spent the final years of his life at Kartarpur.

S.C.L. Das, Joint Secretary, the Ministry of Home Affairs, led the Indian delegation. The team from Pakistan was led by Mohammad Faisal, DG (SA & SAARC) of the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Lands owned by the Kartarpur Gurdwara committee has been usurped by the government of Pakistan in name of developing the corridor. A strident demand was made by India for restoration of these lands to the gurdwara,” said the official.

Curbs on daily visits

The official also said that Pakistan suggested capping the number of pilgrims to the shrine at 700 a day instead of the 5,000 proposed by India. “Initially they said 500, when we insisted, they agreed to increase the number of pilgrims to 700. Pakistan did not agree to daily visits and restricted it to the visiting days specified by it. It did not agree to travel of devotees on foot and insisted that the movement be in groups of 15 and by vehicles,” said the official.

The official said India and Pakistan had signed a pact in 1974 to facilitate the visit of their pilgrims to the shrines located in each other’s territories but Kartarpur Sahib was not included in the pact despite repeated requests by India. As per that agreement, there are 15 shrines in Pakistan and seven in India which pilgrims from both sides can visit.

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