India and Pakistan are all set to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on October 23 for the opening of the Kartarpur corridor that will link two important Sikh shrines on either side.
New Delhi has asked Islamabad to reconsider its demand of charging $20 service fee a pilgrim.
The corridor is being built by both nations to connect Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur, the final resting place of Guru Nanak, to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism on November 12.
PM to flag off first ‘jatha’
Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal tweeted on Monday that on November 9, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would flag off the first jatha (group) of 550 pilgrims to Kartarpur Sahib and address a public meeting. She said she had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and discussed the November 9 programme that would be organised by the Centre. The Prime Minister would also inaugurate the Integrated Check Post (ICP), she added.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh will be one of the first visitors to the Kartarpur shrine. There is still no clarity on the visit of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said, “It is a matter of disappointment that while an understanding has been reached on most of the elements for facilitating the visit of pilgrims from India, Pakistan continues to insist on levying a service fee of $20 per pilgrim per visit.”
India had consistently urged Pakistan that in deference to the wishes of pilgrims, it should not levy such a fee. “In view of the long pending demand of the pilgrims to have visa-free access to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib and in the interest of operationalisation of the corridor in time before the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak falling on November 12, the government on Monday conveyed that India would be ready to sign the agreement on the corridor on October 23,” the statement said.
While agreeing to sign the agreement, the Pakistani government had once again been urged to reconsider its insistence to levy service fee on pilgrims. India would be ready to amend the agreement accordingly at any time, it said.
“The government has taken the initiative to put in place a 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 pilgrims from India and those holding Overseas Citizen of India Card can undertake a visit to the holy Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan,” the statement added..