An artist’s impression of the ‘state of the art’ Passenger Terminal Building Complex to be built for Kartarpur Corridor.

India For Visa-Free Travel But Wary Of Pak-Backed Khalistani Secessionism

Team SNI New Delhi 13 March 2019

As India and Pakistan prepare to meet tomorrow at Attari to work out the modalities for the Kartarpur Corridor, New Delhi hopes Islamabad will not use this corridor “to indulge in propaganda activities and encourage secessionist tendencies”.

The reference is to Khalistan, a movement that has enjoyed the support of Pakistan in the past and has prompted New Delhi to raise the matter with the Pak government.

The joint secretary-level meeting also assumes significance as it comes exactly a month after the Pulwama terror strike. India has held Pak-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) responsible for the attack that left 40 CRPF men dead.

The Kartarpur Corridor which will allow pilgrims to visit the 16th century Gurdwara, Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, is on the banks of the river Ravi. Located in Pakistan, the gurdwara is barely four km beyond the international border.

Going into the meeting which is to be held on the Indian side of the Wagah-Attari border, sources indicated today that India is keen to finalise the modalities for the Corridor on Thursday itself. However, they said that if required, another meeting can be held to work out the nitty-gritty.

What is also of concern for the Indian side is the security aspect of the Corridor. The issue of whether pilgrims visiting the Sikh shrine will require visas is yet to be decided. India is learnt to be keen that the pilgrims have visa-free access to the gurdwara. The matter is expected to be discussed when the two sides meet tomorrow. “It’s a bit premature to say anything on this. Let us discuss it,” said sources.

For now, New Delhi is looking at a minimum of 5,000 pilgrims using the route daily in the first phase of the Corridor’s development. However, on peak days, Indian authorities expect this number to surge to nearly 10,000 for which the necessary infrastructure will be put in place.

Regarding security, sources said “it won’t be compromised” and that it was of “paramount concern, national concern”. They added that “security will be fool-proof and intrusion free”.

Sources said India is also looking at the Corridor as a “people-to-people initiative” and noted that the demand for such a corridor has been a long pending one.

To develop the corridor, India has already shared s draft Memorandum of Agreement with the Pakistan government, sources added.

The talks between Indian and Pakistani delegations will deliberate upon the necessity of passport and visa-related issues. The Indian position, sources said is one of making the holy shrine available to “optimal” number of people. “We are looking for visa-free travel facilities for 5,000 Indian pilgrims in the first phase itself,” said a source elaborating on the Indian position.

As for Pakistan complaining that journalists from their country had not been granted Indian visas to cover tomorrow’s meeting, sources said it was a formal meeting and not a public event.

The Indian government has identified 50 acres of land for the Kartarpur Corridor and it is to be developed in two phases. Phase I will involve the development of 15 acres of this land. The plan is to build a state-of-the-art Passenger Terminal Building Complex with facilities for immigration and customs clearance.

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