India-Pakistan to ink Kartarpur pact amid concerns
There is unlikely to be any joint event by the two countries when the corridor is thrown open to Indian pilgrims as part of celebrations marking the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, and no senior Indian leader or official is expected to travel to Pakistan.Updated: Oct 17, 2019 02:04 IST
India and Pakistan are expected to sign an agreement for operationalising the Kartarpur Corridor despite serious misgivings in New Delhi over conditions set by Islamabad, including a service fee for Indian pilgrims, people familiar with developments said on Wednesday.
There is unlikely to be any joint event by the two countries when the corridor is thrown open to Indian pilgrims as part of celebrations marking the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, and no senior Indian leader or official is expected to travel to Pakistan, the people said.
India is set to go ahead with the agreement largely because of the sentiments of the Sikh community, which has for long demanded the opening of a corridor to allow pilgrims to visit the gurdwara at the site where Guru Nanak spent the last years of his life, they added.
“There continue to be concerns about conditions set by the Pakistani side, including the service fee of $20 for every Indian pilgrim. They could even raise it at some later stage,” said a person who declined to be named.
Pakistan’s final draft agreement for the corridor, which will link Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur to Darbar Sahib gurdwara in Kartarpur, was received by India last week. Officials of the two countries have indicated in the past the corridor is likely to be opened in the second week of November, and it is understood that the signing of the agreement could go down to the wire.
The people cited above pointed out that the Union home ministry and the Punjab government were currently taking care of all arrangements on the Indian side and the current lack of a role for the external affairs ministry indicated no Indian official or leader will travel to Pakistan in connection with the opening of the corridor.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh has said former premier Manmohan Singh had agreed to join the first all-party “jatha” (delegation) to the Kartarpur gurdwara. The people said if Singh travelled to the shrine in Pakistan, it would be in a personal capacity as a pilgrim.
According to a tweet posted by Union minister Harsimrat Badal on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to inaugurate the Indian side of the corridor on November 8. Pakistan is expected to have a separate ceremony on its side at around the same time.
Govind Mohan, chairman of the Land Port Authority of India and additional secretary in the home ministry, told reporters at Dera Baba Nanak that online registration of pilgrims travelling to Kartarpur is expected to start on October 20. India has proposed the first group of pilgrims cross over on November 8.
A passenger terminal covering 250,000 sq ft that can accommodate 5,000 people, a facilitation centre, food kiosks, parking area and security points will be completed by November 8. Mohan said work on a four-lane highway and the terminal will be completed by the end of this month.