In a significant development, Pakistan on Sunday agreed to allow year-long visa-free access to pilgrims having Indian passport holders and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card holders seven days a week.
"It was agreed to allow visa-free travel for the Indian passport holders and OCI card holders seven days a week. Throughout the year, 5000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara per day. The pilgrims will be allowed to travel as individuals or in groups and also on foot," stated a press release from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
"The work on the 4-lane highway to the crossing point at the International Boundary is progressing satisfactorily and is on schedule. It will be completed by end September 2019. The Government is fully confident that India would be ready to commence the pilgrimage through Kartarpur corridor on the auspicious occasion of the 550th birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji," it added.
The second round of talks, which was originally scheduled on April 12, with Pakistan on the modalities for operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor was held at Wagah today. The Indian delegation was led by SCL Das, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Government of Punjab and the National Highway Authorities of India.
Earlier, spokesperson of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan, Dr Mohammad Faisal addressing media at Wagah border said, "Pakistan is fully committed and cooperating to operationalize Kartarpur Corridor. More than 70 per cent of Gurdwara's construction work is completed. We hope to have productive discussion today."
The second round of talks was cancelled by India after Pakistan nominated Khalistani separatists in the 10-member Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhik Committee (PSGPC) to facilitate Sikh pilgrims after opening of the corridor.
India voiced concerns over the presence of Khalistani separatists like Chawla in the committee and said it will wait for a response from Islamabad on the issue and will not go ahead with the meeting.
Chawla is the secretary-general of the PSGPC.
"Chawla has been removed from the secretary general post and he is no longer a member of the PSGPC. Chawla is also not part of the Pakistani delegation which is taking part in the second round of talks in Wagah," a senior official of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) told PTI.
The ETPB is a statutory board that manages religious properties and shrines of Hindus and Sikhs who had migrated to India following the partition.
The official said the PSGPC Pardhan (president) Tara Singh has also been removed and the new election will be held soon to elect new president and the secretary-general.
With PTI Inputs