Pakistan, India hold 'positive' talks on Sikh visits

Indian Sikh pilgrims on a train bound for Pakistan in 2010. Officials from both countries are meeting to discuss visa-free travel for Indian Sikh's wanting to visit Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Sikhism's founder in Pakistan (AFP Photo/NARINDER NANU) (AFP/File)

Pakistan and India held "very positive" talks Thursday, as the arch-rivals sat down to discuss a visa-free corridor for Sikh pilgrims just weeks after soaring tensions brought the two nuclear-armed powers to the brink of war.

Officials from the two countries met in Attari, India, to discuss the details of an agreement that would allow Indian Sikhs to visit a shrine to their religion's founder in eastern Pakistan.

"Both sides held detailed and constructive discussions on various aspects and provisions of the proposed agreement and agreed to work towards expeditiously operationalizing the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor," read the joint statement released by Pakistan’s foreign ministry.

The two sides are set to meet again in the coming weeks to finalise the deal, the statement added.

“They were very welcoming, the whole meeting took place in a very positive environment,” added Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal.

Upon completion of the corridor, Indian Sikhs will be able to access the site without first having to apply for a Pakistani visa.

The arch-rivals have maintained an uneasy calm since tit-for-tat cross-border air raids across their disputed Kashmir frontier in February sparked fears of wider war, with each side claiming to have shot down a fighter jet from the other side.

The latest crisis was sparked by a February 14 suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries, and was claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

A pilot who was shot down over Pakistani territory was later sent back to India, lowering tensions.

Islamabad has also said it is cracking down on militants inside its borders, saying that more than 100 insurgents, including many from JeM, had been detained.

The talks in India come a day after China put on hold a request by Britain, France and the United States to add Masood Azhar, leader of JeM, to a UN terror blacklist.

Pakistani and Indian soldiers have continued to fire over the Line of Control -- the de-facto border dividing Kashmir, killing several civilians on both sides.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947.

Both claim the Himalayan territory in full and have fought two wars over it.