Islamabad: In a positive development that could help ease tensions between the two sides, Pakistan on Tuesday said it will send a delegation to India on March 14 to discuss a draft agreement for setting up a corridor to facilitate visa-free visit of Sikh pilgrims to the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.
Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal, who is also the Director General South Asia & SAARC, invited India’s acting High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia at the ministry of foreign affairs to convey the decision, according to a statement.
“The Pakistan delegation will visit New Delhi on 14 March 2019, followed by the return visit of the Indian delegation to Islamabad on 28 March 2019, to discuss the draft Agreement on Kartarpur Corridor,” the statement said.
Faisal informed the Indian diplomat that Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India, Sohail Mahmood, will be returning to New Delhi after the completion of consultations in Islamabad.
He also conveyed that Pakistan was committed to continue weekly contact at the Military Operations Directorates level.
The positive development came amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following a suicide attack by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad that killed 40 CRPF personnel in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14.
Pakistan on Tuesday detained 44 members of the banned militant outfits, including JeM chief Masood Azhar’s son Hammad Azhar and brother Mufti Abdur Rauf, in a move seen as a step toward deescalating tensions.
India and Pakistan agreed to open up a special border crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur – the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev – to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district.
Kartarpur Sahib is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, the first Gurdwara, was established by Guru Nanak Dev in 1522, where he is said to have died.
The corridor will facilitate the visa-free travel of Indian Sikh pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.
In January, the two countries floated proposals to host talks in order to give the final shape to the agreement.
Pakistan has committed to open the corridor in November on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
India’s Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on November 26 last year laid the foundation stone for the Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur district.
Two days later, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone for the corridor at Narowal, 125 km from Lahore.
The decision to build the corridor — from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district to the International Border — was taken by the Indian Cabinet on November 22.
The two governments have also launched the construction work to build corridor for the Sikh pilgrims to help them visit the shrine through the shortest route.
But, both sides are yet to finalise the modalities of travel of the Indian pilgrims to the Gurudwara across the international border without visa.