New Delhi: Though the issue of charging a fee of $20 (Rs 1,420) for using the yet-to-be opened Kartarpur Corridor lies unresolved, the Centre will go ahead and sign the agreement on Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on October 23, the ministry of external affairs has confirmed. Pakistan foreign ministry sources have also confirmed the date.
“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 USD 20 per pilgrim per visit. Government has consistently urged Pakistan that in deference to the wishes of the pilgrims, it should not levy such a fee,” the MEA statement 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 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak falling on 12 November 2019, Government has today conveyed that we would be ready to sign the Agreement on Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on 23 October 2019,” it said.
It also said that the Pakistan government has again been urged to waive the service fee. If agreed, India can amend the agreement at any time.
Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal slammed Pakistan for its insistence on charging the fee, saying that the neighbouring state is intent to make a business out of people’s faith. Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, too, had lashed out at Pakistan for demanding the fee.
In September, Pakistan announced that it would charge pilgrims, which should not be treated as an entrance fee. Initially, there were disagreements on the number of daily pilgrims to be allowed. Pakistan agreed to allow 5,000 Indian pilgrims daily, though India wanted 10,000. Pakistan agreed to open the corridor for pilgrims belonging to all faiths. Registration to visit was supposed to begin on October 20, but it didn’t as the agreement was not signed.