On Kartarpur, India pushes Pakistan to meet November deadline
Pakistan’s foreign office has issued a release agreeing to India’s proposal for a joint secretary level meeting between the two countries between July 11 and July 14 at Wagah to finalize the Kartarpur corridor, with the Narendra Modi government is pressing hard to meet the 2019 November deadline to allow Sikh pilgrims from India an opportunity to celebrate the 550th birthday of Guru Nanak Dev at Darbar Sahib in Narowal district in Pakistan.
While work on a passenger terminal, a four-lane highway and a bridge across the Ravi floodplain has begun on the Indian side, the Modi government is also keen that Pakistan allow Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) apart from Indian passport holders to visit the historic shrine.
As of now Pakistan has only agreed to allow Indian passport holders to visit the shrine and has asked PIOs to take a Pakistan visa for the pilgrimage.
According to home ministry officials, India also wants pilgrims to be allowed to go on foot to the shrine, located around five kilometres from the international border west of Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district and that too without permit or paying additional charge.
India is keen that a 200-300 meters bridge be built over River Ravi floodplains to cater for floods and rains to allow pilgrims to visit Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur, where Guru Nanak Dev settled the Sikh commune.
India has requested Pakistan that the pilgrimage should be allowed around the year with 5,000 visitors being permitted each day with the number being allowed to increase to 15,000 on special occasions such as the Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
According to North Block, Pakistan is ready to accept around 500-700 pilgrims from India and that too on a limited number of days.
It wants to escort the pilgrims from its side of the border terminal to Kartarpur via buses after issuance of permits.
Islamabad will issue the permits after India sends the names of the pilgrims ready to visit the Gurudwara at Kartarpur.
As of now there is no talk of a dedicated corridor between India to Kartarpur purely for the purpose of pilgrimage. Pakistan wants pilgrim to shell out cash for the permits just as foreigners pay to visit historical sites in India.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself keen to participate in the 550th celebrations for Guru Nanak Dev, India is making an all-out effort to operationalize the Kartarpur corridor as soon as possible.