Kartarpur Corridor: Pakistan-India fail to reach an agreement on key issues

New Delhi Written By: Siddharth Jain Updated: Sep 04, 2019, 04:16 PM IST
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Work is on in full swing on both Pakistan and Indian side of the Kartarpur corridor with officials monitoring daily progress. Photograph:(AFP)

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While Pakistan insisted on levying a "service fee" for allowing Pilgrims to visit Kartarpur Gurdwara Kartarpur, India did not agree.

India and Pakistan on Wednesday failed to reach an agreement on Kartarpur Corridor project due to differences on thorny issues such as the imposition of fees on pilgrims by Islamabad and presence of Indian diplomats. 

While Pakistan insisted on levying a "service fee" for allowing Pilgrims to visit Kartarpur Gurdwara Kartarpur, India did not agree. A source said that charging of fee was not in the spirit of "smooth and easy access through the Corridor."

Another issue was the presence of Indian protocol and Consular officers. 

New Delhi requested Islamabad to allow Indian protocol officers to accompany pilgrims at every visit to facilitate their pilgrimage but Pakistan expressed its reluctance to accede to this request.However, India has asked Pakistan to reconsider its position.

SCL Das, Joint Secretary, Internal Security, Ministry of Home Affairs, who led the Indian delegation at the talks said, "We were hopeful that this would have been last and final meeting. We are disappointed that because of two points. This is a people's project, no fee should be charged and they should be flexible on that" 

Both sides already agreed that 5,000 pilgrims can visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib using the Corridor every day and additional pilgrims, over and above the figure of 5,000, can visit on special occasions.

"There is an agreement on visa-free travel of Indian pilgrims, without any restrictions based on their faith. Persons of Indian origin holding OCI card too can visit Holy Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib using this Corridor", SCL Das said.

The corridor will be open 365 days and pilgrims have a choice to visit as an individual or in group. Both sides also agreed on emergency evacuation procedures, especially medical emergencies and for this, a direct line of communication between Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers will be established. Pakistan will also make sufficient provision for preparation and distribution of ‘Langar’ and ‘Prasad’ for the pilgrims.

This was the third round of India-Pakistan talks on the corridor and is expected to be followed by fifth round of technical talks on the corridor. 

The fourth round of India Pak talks will take place in Wagah, Pakistan.

In November 2018, India, Pakistan announced the establishment of a direct border-crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak, to Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district. It is expected to be open by Nov 2019, 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. Kartarpur is located in Pakistan's Narowal district across the Ravi river, about four km from Dera Baba Nanak.