New Delhi, Oct 22, 2019-
Even before its inauguration, the Kartarpur Corridor has got mired in a dispute with Pakistan unrelenting on making the pilgrimage to one of the holiest Sikh shrines free of any charges.
The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, located about 4.5 kms from Indian border in Pakistani Punjab’s Narowal district, is highly revered by Sikhs as it was here that Sikhism founder Guru Nanak spent 18 years of his life and is his final resting place.
Sikhs have for long been demanding access to this revered place and in view of the sentiments, India and Pakistan last year agreed to build a corridor by October 31 this year, a week before the celebrations to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
The two sides held several rounds of talks to discuss modalities and resolved most of the issues but on one particular matter, at least, Pakistan has remained adamant and is delayed signing of an agreement between the two countries.
Pakistan has decided to levy a service charge of $20 on each pilgrim and India has been requesting it not to do so as there was an understanding that the pilgrimage would be free.
This dispute delayed signing of the agreement, which was slated to be done on October 20 but will now take place on Wednesday, despite India’s “disappointment” over Pakistan’s stubborn attitude.
Since the agreement could not be signed, the process for applying online for the pilgrimage could not begin on October 20 as planned.
“Pakistan continues to insist on levying a service fee of $20 per pilgrim per visit,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said on Monday, adding it was a matter of “disappointment” when understanding has been reached on most of the elements for facilitating the visit of pilgrims from India.
“While agreeing to sign the Agreement, the government of Pakistan has been once again urged to reconsider its insistence to levy service fee on pilgrims. India would be ready to amend the Agreement accordingly at any time,” said Kumar in a statement.
The Indian government has taken the initiative of putting in place the state-of-the-art infrastructure and open the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on the auspicious occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev so that the pilgrims from India and those holding Overseas Citizen of India Card can undertake visit to the holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib.
According to the understanding between the two countries, up to 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit the holy site.
A passport is a must for devotees from India visiting Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara to pay obeisance. Visa will not be required but the visitors need to get themselves registered online at least a month ahead of their visit.
With the opening of the corridor, which has modern amenities and facilities, the pilgrims would be able to visit the holy shrine throughout the year.
However, the pilgrims will have to complete their visit to Kartarpur shrine and return home within a day.
The corridor is expected to be inaugurated on November 8 and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is to lead an all-party delegation across the border to Kartarpur Sahib on the opening day of the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9. (Agency)