Pakistan’s insistence on charging $20 (₹1,417) as service fee from Indian devotees for visiting Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara has met with sharp criticism from India. While agreeing to sign an agreement on October 23 for the operationalisation of the Kartarpur Corridor, it expressed “disappointment” over Islamabad’s insistence on levying service fee per pilgrim and asked it to reconsider its decision.
The government has taken the initiative to put in place state of 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 visit to the holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
“It is a matter of disappointment that while 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 (₹1416) per pilgrim per visit,” the MEA said.
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The government has consistently urged Pakistan that in deference to the wishes of the pilgrims, it should not levy such a fee, it said.
“In view of the long pending demand of the pilgrims to have visa-free access to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib and in the interest of operationalisation of the corridor in time before the Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary on November 12, the government on Monday conveyed that India would be ready to sign the agreement on the corridor on Wednesday,” the MEA said.
While agreeing to sign the agreement, the Pakistani government has been once again been urged to reconsider its insistence to levy service fee on pilgrims, it said, adding India would be ready to amend the agreement accordingly at any time.
The corridor will connect the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Indias Punjab with the gurdwara at Kartarpur, just about four kilometres from the international border, located at Shakargarh in Narowal district of Pakistans Punjab province.
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India and Pakistan had planned to open the corridor in early November before the year-long celebrations to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism who had spent more than 18 years at the Kartarpur gurdwara, located on the banks of the river Ravi.
In November 2018, India and Pakistan had agreed to set up the border crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak.
The foundation stone for the Kartarpur corridor was laid in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu in November last year.