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Transcript of the Press Briefing after conclusion of the talks on Kartarpur Corridor

March 14, 2019

Shri S.C.L Das, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs: "This morning we had the first meeting with the delegation from Pakistan. This was to discuss the modalities for operationalisation of the Kartarpur corridor. The meeting was held at 10.30 am at JCP Attari. The Indian delegation comprised of officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Govt. of Punjab, Border Security Force, Customs, National Highways, Land Port Authority of India etc. The Pakistan delegation was a 20-member team. It was led by Dr. Mohammed Faisal, Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Govt. of Pakistan.

After the meeting a Joint Press Statement has already been issued, which you have seen so I am not going to repeat it. But I’ll just take you through some additional details about the context and content of our meeting. As you all know, 2019 is a significant and a very auspicious year for all of us. It marks the 550th birth anniversary of Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji. As you also know in November last year, significant decisions were taken to celebrate this occasion in a grand and befitting manner, both in India as well as abroad. The decision to develop and operationalise the Kartarpur corridor was one of the key decisions, one of the very important decisions, one of the steps taken in that direction. As you are aware, other projects under implementation in the same context of celebration of the 550th birth anniversary of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, includes development of Sultanpur Lodhi, upgradation of Sultanpur Lodhi Station, Centre for Interfaith Studies at Amritsar and Chair on Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji at one university each in United Kingdom and Canada, release of coins and stamps on this occasion, special train passing through the holy places associated with Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji, special events in all the states and Union Territories and all our Missions abroad. So this was the larger context.

Now, so far as the Kartarpur Corridor is concerned, all of us are acutely aware that it has been a long standing demand of Indian Pilgrims that they should have absolutely smooth, easy, convenient and unrestricted access to the historic and Holy Site of Kartarpur where Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji lived for the final 18 years of his life. So the talk held today, they were part of our ongoing endeavour to realize this long awaited aspiration of Indian pilgrims for smooth, easy and regular access to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib. The talks held today between India and Pakistan, first of its kind, at Attari, were constructive and they were primarily aimed at facilitating the visit of Indian pilgrims to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib through a dedicated corridor in a smooth and easy manner. Both sides discussed in detail the various provisions of the draft agreement. Both sides had prepared their own draft agreements, shared, so these were discussed in detail. Our side pressed on the need for arranging the visit of at least 5,000 pilgrims per day to begin with, in the phase 1 of the project, the details of which we will shortly share with you also. So we have pressed from our side that at least, to begin with, in the initial phase itself, 5,000 pilgrims should be allowed to visit the holy shrine per day. And this should include not only Indian nationals but People of Indian Origin as well. So that was what we stressed for. And we have also strongly urged them to allow these visits because people from all over the country and all over the world will be coming for all 7 days of the week all throughout the year without any break, particularly provides for a much higher size of visiting pilgrims by another 10,000 on special says, let’s say Guru Purab, Baisakhi etc. On special days, we have strongly pressed for the need to have another 10,000 plus and accordingly we have told them also that we have developed facilities for that number in the first phase, to go on further.

We have also emphasized from our side that in the spirit of this Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, this corridor should be absolutely visa free. There should not be any additional encumbrances in the form of any additional documentation or procedure so that the basic spirit of allowing very easy and smooth access to a large number of pilgrims on a daily basis is conveniently realised. We have from our side very strongly emphasised on the need to allow devotees those who want to travel on foot, as this is a very important pilgrimage, so they should be allowed to travel on foot to the holy shrine. So these are some of the highlights from the points which we have very strongly made from our side, pressed that these should be in the first go itself, as part of the agreement.

There are several other points which are of consequential nature but these were the strong points and from the Pakistani side, they have assured us that they would consider some of those and revert back. We hope that in the next round of talks they should be able to revert on this. As of now, we can only say that we have from our side very clearly highlighted our own preparedness, keenness and eagerness to operationalise this as early as possible and on as large a scale as can be. So, from our side we have given them a visual walk-through of the facilities which are currently under implementation, we will also share that visual walk-through with you, my colleague will share that. So, we have found that what is the scale of the investment that we have made and we would like to realise the, actualize the sentiments behind this entire project in the spirit that it was conceived in. And we have urged them that they should also make similar arrangements, scale up their arrangements from their side so that there is a matching capability to host the pilgrims which go from our side. We have agreed in the talks today towards the conclusion that an expert level- because it involves a lot of engineering also in the infrastructure on both sides- we have agreed that at expert level discussion would be held by the engineers & technical experts on both sides very shortly, that is on 19 March so we press for an early date so that the joint field survey and other discussions would take place at an early date and so that the project construction could proceed at a fast pace. With that in mind we press for an early date and the Pakistan side agreed to have this joint field survey cum discussion on the various technical aspects of the alignment height, weight, etc. of the infrastructure on both sides on 19th of March; in the next few days and after that is done this should be followed with the full scale delegation reciprocal visit where we would like to take this today’s discussions forward so in that spirit it has, we have agreed to hold the next meeting at Wagah on the 2nd April that is on Tuesday, the first Tuesday of the next month to take this process forward. So this in a gist, the sum and substance of today’s discussions. We will be happy to share with you the visual facility/highlights of the projects which we have shared with them and would be happy to share with you too and I request now my colleague to…..

Ms. Nidhi Khare, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs : In line with the demand that we are expecting that more than 5000 pilgrims would be visiting Kartarpur on a daily basis, Government of India has decided to build a huge passenger terminal complex building which is going to be a state-of-the-art building. This is going to be a green building; it is going to be building with elderly friendly, disabled-friendly and it will look after the needs of pilgrims from all over the country who want to pay their homage to Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan. For this purpose we have basically acquired land of 50 acres on the border and we are going to develop it in phased manner. In the first phase the development is on 15 acre and the built up area about 21680 square metres, out of which the passenger terminal complex building would be about 16000 square meters. This building would be fully air conditioned and there will be all protocol regarding security, surveillance and such other functional requirements. Most of the people who are going to handle immigration and who are basically going to facilitate the transit for them also we are keeping some space. We are going to have 54 counters which can very quickly make this facilitation easy and for the pilgrims it should be very comfortable, extremely in-ease they should be able to walk through the Indian side onto the Pakistani Side. Now we have requested them to basically make us know what all structures they are going to construct so that we should be in a position to get back our pilgrims on the same day with safety and with security. So our technical team would be going on the border, on the international border at Dera Baba Nanak where this thing is going to be constructed. We are going to be basically looking on the side; the measurement, the technical issues about the width of the roads and such other things and what all facilities they are going to come out for our pilgrims. The department of MORTH is basically constructing and widening the NH and this road will come up to the passenger terminal complex so that people can come with their vehicles, they can park it on the side and we can also ensure humongous scene to the walk-through. The kind of building, the kind of facilities that we have created for the pilgrims, we expect that Pakistan would also reciprocate and look after our pilgrims for their comfort and for their needs.

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