India has objected to the $20 fee being charged by Pakistan as “service fee”.
New Delhi: India and Pakistan are close to signing the agreement on Kartarpur Corridor. Sources in the Indian government said that the only issue unresolved is the $20 fee that Pakistan will charge from the pilgrims and almost all other matters are “more or less” resolved.
India has objected to the $20 fee being charged by Pakistan as “service fee”. Pakistan has claimed that this money will be used for the infrastructure maintenance and providing other facilities to the pilgrims at Kartarpur Sahib.
However, the Indian side is strongly opposed to this saying that any amount charged is against the spirit of the goodwill that Pakistan is trying to create by opening the corridor. India also feels that this can lead to charging higher amount from Indian pilgrims in future.
“Today it is $20, tomorrow it can be $50. The Kartarpur Corridor should not be used as money making project as the main purpose was to allow pilgrims pay obeisance at Kartarpur Sahib. Fees should not be brought in the matter of faith,” sources said. They added that the two countries are still negotiating on the $20 fee issue.
However, Pakistan claims that such fee is a normal practice worldwide. “Saudi Arab charges almost double the amount if you go for pilgrimage for the second time. There is no free pilgrimage for Vatican or for Mecca,” Pakistani sources had said last month after the meeting between two sides on September 4.
On the other issues, sources said that India’s demand to have its consular officer stationed in Kartarpur Sahib premises is also “almost” agreed upon. During their last meeting in September, Pakistan had showed inflexibility in allowing Indian consular presence or permitting protocol officials to travel every day to extend facilitation to pilgrims going to Kartarpur Sahib through the corridor.
It is learnt that Pakistan is also now “flexible” on allowing higher numbers of pilgrims on special occasions. India wanted Pakistan to allow about 10,000 pilgrims on special days which Pakistan was not committing citing infrastructure issues. The two sides are now working out the timing of the pilgrimage every day to decide the entry and the exit time of the last person.
Meanwhile, the online registration for pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is expected to begin from October 20. Pilgrims will have to register ten days in advance and Pakistan side will take about six days to clear the names. On a daily basis, about 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to travel to Kartarpur Sahib.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to inaugurate the Indian side of the Kartarpur Corridor on November 8 and India has proposed that the first group of pilgrims should cross over to Pakistan on November itself. Former PM Manmohan Singh and Punjab CM Capt. Amari-nder Singh are likely to visit Kartarpur Sahib as pilgrims as part of the first “jattha” on Day 1.
Pakistan will provide transport from the zero point to the Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib. On the Indian side, 55 immigration counters are being set up at the passenger terminal where pilgrims will get travel papers stamped. Though there are no visa requirements, pilgrims will still need to carry their passports.