Online registration for Kartarpur pilgrimage couldn’t start due to Pak demand of USD 20 fee

PTI

File photo: Indian and Pakistani officials during a bilateral talk meeting held in relation with the construction of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor  (PTI Photo)

File photo: Indian and Pakistani officials during a bilateral talk meeting held in relation with the construction of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor (PTI Photo)

The online registration of devotees visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur could not be started on Sunday as India and Pakistan have not yet agreed upon on a number of issues, including Islamabad’s insistence of charging USD 20 from each pilgrim, officials said.

India and Pakistan were supposed to sign a pact on Saturday on a few unresolved issues of the pilgrimage, but that did not happen yet.

“Since some issues are yet to be resolved, the online registration for the Kartarpur pilgrimage could not be started on Sunday,” an official privy to the development said.

Key unresolved issues include Pakistan’s insistence of charging USD 20 from each pilgrim and the timing of the pilgrimage every day (first entry and last exit time).

On October 16, Chairman of the Land Ports Authority of India and Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Govind Mohan had said the online registration for pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is expected to commence on October 20, provided a pact is signed on remaining issues.

India had asked Pakistan to reconsider the decision on charging USD 20 per pilgrim, allow 10,000 pilgrims on special occasions and an Indian protocol officer to accompany the delegation that visits Kartarpur everyday.

Pakistan is yet to respond to India’s requests, the official said.

Last month, India and Pakistan agreed on visa-free travel of Indian pilgrims to Gurudwara Darbar Sahib using the Kartarpur corridor. Pilgrims will only have to carry their passports to visit the revered gurdwara in Pakistan.

Persons of Indian origin holding OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card too can visit the Gurdwara using the Kartarpur corridor.

It was also decided that 5,000 pilgrims can visit the shrine everyday and that additional pilgrims will be allowed on special occasions, subject to capacity expansion of facilities by the Pakistan side.

India and Pakistan have also decided that the corridor will be operational throughout the year and seven days a week and that pilgrims will have a choice to visit it as individual or in groups.

Both sides agreed to build a bridge over the Budhi Ravi channel near the border crossing point. Pending the construction of the bridge on the Pakistan side, both parties agreed to the crossing point coordinates of the temporary service road.

India has constructed a four-lane highway in Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district in Punjab connecting the ‘zero point’ for onward journey to Pakistan.

A state-of-the-art passenger terminal with facilitation centre to host government officials responsible for ensuring hassle-free travel of pilgrims, food kiosks, parking areas and security points will also come up by November 8 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will formally inaugurate the much-awaited Kartarpur corridor.

A total of 55 immigration counters are being set up at the passenger terminal.

The corridor will connect the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Punjab with the gurdwara at Kartarpur, just about four kilometres from the international border, located at Shakargarh in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, had spent more than 18 years at the Kartarpur gurdwara, located on the banks of the river Ravi.

India and Pakistan had planned to open the corridor before the year-long celebrations to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev beginning next month.

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.

(PTI)