New Delhi: The Indian government on Monday said it would sign an agreement with Pakistan to operationalise the Kartarpur Sahib corridor despite Islamabad not ceding to the request of withdrawing the service fee of $20 on pilgrims.
In a statement, the external affairs ministry said it is ready to sign the agreement on October 23 to operationalise the cross-border corridor to Darbar Sahib gurdwara in Kartarpur before November 12 in view of the long-pending demand of pilgrims to have visa free access to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.
“While agreeing to sign the agreement, the Government of Pakistan has been once again urged to reconsider its insistence to levy service fee of $20 on pilgrims. India would be ready to amend the Agreement accordingly at any time,” the MEA said.
The registration of pilgrims online is likely to start soon after the agreement is signed. Pakistan will take six days to process the request and four days before the date of travel, the Pakistani authorities will give the names cleared to travel.
The statement described Pakistan’s proposed service fee as a “matter of disappointment” and reiterated the Indian government’s request to withdraw the levy. India and Pakistan were supposed to sign a pact on Saturday on a few unresolved issues of the pilgrimage, but that did not happen as the service fee remained the only sticking point.
Although the government has once again requested Pakistan to waive off the fee, it has not kept the signing of the agreement conditional on it any longer. “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 continue to insist on levying a service fee of USD 20 per pilgrim per visit. Government has consistently urged Pakistan that in deference to the wishes of the pilgrims, it should not levy such a fee," MEA statement said.
Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has said that the first Jatha of 550 people will travel to Kartarpur on November 9, the date of inauguration of the corridor. Badal met union home minister Amit Shah on Monday to finalise the programme for the inaugration of the corridor by PM Narendra Modi.