Pakistan firm on $20 Kartarpur fee

With Pakistan refusing to budge on charging Sikh pilgrims $20 to visit Kartarpur Sahib, India gave in and agreed to sign the Kartarpur Corridor agreement on October 23.

Expressing “disappointment”, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the government had conveyed to Pakistan that it would sign the deal. The Indian concession came even as Indian and Pakistani forces are ranged along the LoC in a heavy exchange of fire.

“It is a matter of disappointment that while 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 $20 per pilgrim per visit,” Kumar said.

“In view of the long-pending demand of pilgrims to have visa free access to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib and in the interest of operationalisation of the corridor in time before Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary on November 12, the government conveyed that India would be ready to sign the agreement on Wednesday,” the MEA said. The government added that it had taken the initiative to put in place “state-of-the-art infrastructure” for the passenger terminal, roads and associated facilities.

Islamabad has refused to accede to India’s request not to charge pilgrims for visiting Kartarpur Sahib. Some estimates say Pakistan could earn as much as $100,000 a day from around 5,000 pilgrims. Earlier this week, the MEA had taken a tougher stand and said the government may not sign the agreement unless Pakistan reversed the fee. Pakistan is actually well within its rights to charge a fee. It is in recognition of that the government decided to climb down.

The corridor will connect the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab with the gurdwara in Kartarpur, just 4 km from the International Border, located in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province.

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