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October 22, 2019

Kartarpur Corridor: India finally yields to Pak demands

Top Story

October 22, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A day after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced the inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor on November 9, New Delhi Monday announced that it was ready to sign the Kartarpur Corridor agreement on October 23 – three weeks ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Sahib.

The announcement from Delhi comes when Pakistan has invited Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia to join other Islamabad-based diplomats to visit the Line of Control and see the ground situation there with their own eyes.

The guided tour [of diplomats] has been arranged by the Pakistan Army and the Foreign Office.

While Pakistan neither reacted nor made public the logistics involved while signing the Kartarpur Corridor agreement, it is understood that like the earlier meetings the historical agreement will be signed either at the Zero Point of Wagah border or the Kartarpur border.

Prime Minister Imran Khan would inaugurate the facility on the scheduled date as construction work has entered the final stage, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party announced on Sunday on its official Twitter handle.

The inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor would coincide with the birth anniversary celebrations of founder of Sikhism Baba Guru Nanak Sahib. "Pakistan is all set to open its doors to Sikhs from all across the globe," the PM wrote. "The world's largest Gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the world," he said.

The prime minister said the Kartarpur Corridor will be a major religious hub for the Sikh community. "(It) will boost the local economy (and) result in earning foreign exchange for the country creating jobs in different sectors including travel and hospitality."

Despite all-time low in bilateral relations, the inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor was one issue where both sides cooperated and ensured that there would be no delay. One of the sticking points in signing the agreement was the reluctance of the Indian government to make it mandatory for Sikh pilgrims to pay $20 as entry fees.

Pakistan handed the final draft of the proposed bilateral agreement over to India on October 11 and also accepted New Delhi’s demand to allow devotees of other faiths – Hindus, Christians, Zoroastrians etc – to visit Baba Guru Nanak Devji’s final resting place.

New Delhi on Monday maintained its reservations about the $20 per pilgrim fee proposed by Pakistan. “[The Indian] Government has consistently urged Pakistan that in deference to the wishes of the pilgrims, it should not levy such a fee,” read the MEA statement.

India urged Pakistan to reconsider “its insistence to levy service fee on pilgrims” and said it would be “ready to amend the agreement accordingly at any time.” In a statement on Monday, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said New Delhi took initiatives to “put in place the state of art infrastructure” and open the corridor for Sikh pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.

“In view of the long pending demand of the pilgrims to have visa free access to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib … [the Indian] Government has today conveyed that we would be ready to sign the Agreement on Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on 23 October 2019,” read the statement.

Under the agreement, at least 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit the holy site every day. India will share the list of pilgrims 10 days in advance and Pakistan will verify and finalise it four days before the visit.

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