India opposes proposed move to levy $20 fee on Kartarpur pilgrims.
New Delhi: Even as Pakistan on Thursday reportedly ruled out giving India a second consular access to imprisoned former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, New Delhi appeared to indicate it was still hopeful that access may again be granted. The MEA indicated India would remain in touch with Pakistan on the matter of consular access to Mr Jadhav through diplomatic channels.
Meanwhile, on the Kartarpur Sahib corridor issue, New Delhi said it opposed Pakistan’s proposed move to levy a fee of $20 on every pilgrim, who would go for the pilgrimage on the grounds that it was a “sentimental religious” issue. New Delhi is of the view that no fees should be charged on pilgrims. Urging Pakistan to be “flexible” on the matter, the MEA said other sticking points included Pakistan’s opposition to allow upto 10,000 pilgrims to visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara daily during the pilgrimage and also Islamabad’s opposition to the presence of Indian protocol officers at the shrine.
On the Jadhav issue, it may be recalled that Pakistan had recently granted India consular access to Mr Jadhav.
“There is no other meeting,” Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson Mohammad Faisal was quoted by news agency reports from Islamabad, as saying in response to a question about Pakistan giving consular access to Jadhav again.
The Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson also reportedly announced that Pakistan would charge $20 per person as service fee for the Kartarpur Corridor. “Pakistan will charge $20 per person as service fees, not entrance fees, for the Kartarpur Corridor,” Mr Faisal was quoted as saying.
On the consular access to Mr Jadhav that was granted to India earlier this month on September 2, Pakistan had insisted on its two conditions for the meeting, which were presence of Pakistani officials at the meeting and the entire meeting being recorded. Predictably, Mr Jadhav “parroted the false narrative and untenable claims” of Pakistan as he was “under extreme pressure”.
Indian Charge d’ Affaires Gaurav Ahluwalia was allowed by Pakistan to gain consular access to Mr. Jadhav on Monday afternoon, in a meeting that had lasted two hours.
India is expected to take the position now that the consular access that was provided by Pakistan was “not unimpeded”, that it was “not free from the fear of intimidation and reprisal” and that it was contrary to the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular access and also contrary to the orders of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The MEA on Thursday, meanwhile, confirmed that the India Cd’A had sent his report on the issue to the ministry in New Delhi but declined to spell out his contents.
It may be recalled that Mr. Jadhav had been handed a death penalty in Pakistan in April, 2017, by a military court there on charges of espionage and sabotage. New Delhi had dismissed the Pakistani charges that Jadhav was a spy and saboteur. India had then petitioned the ICJ, which in its verdict on July 17 this year, had slammed Pakistan for not granting India consular access to Jadhav in violation of the Vienna Convention.
Islamabad had claimed that Mr. Jadhav was “apprehended by Pakistan law enforcement agencies on March 3, 2016 after he illegally crossed over into Pakistan” and that he had been engaging in “espionage, terrorist and sabotage activities aimed at destabilising and waging war against Pakistan”. But rubbishing these claims, India had argued that Mr. Jadhav was ‘kidnapped from Iran, where he was carrying on business after retiring from the Indian Navy, and was then shown to have been arrested in Balochistan” on 3 March 2016…”.