India Asks Pakistan Not to Levy $20 Fee on Kartarpur Pilgrims, Hopes Pact Will be Inked on Time

New Delhi: India on Thursday asked Pakistan not to insist on levying a fee of $20 (approximately Rs 1,420) per Indian pilgrim and hoped an agreement to operationalise the Kartarpur corridor will be inked soon between the two countries.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said both India and Pakistan reached an agreement on the corridor, except on the matter of the service fee.

"After several rounds of discussion with Pakistan, we have reached an agreement on all other issues, except the matter of service fee. Pakistan insists on levying a fee of $20 on all pilgrims," he said.

Kumar said India has urged Pakistan not to levy the fee in the interests of devotees and also because the opening of the corridor is a people-to-people initiative. "We hope the agreement can be concluded and signed in time for the great event," he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to inaugurate the Indian side of the corridor on November 8 and the construction work would be completed by October 31.

Kumar was responding to queries on whether the agreement on the Kartarpur Sahib corridor is yet to be finalised due to Pakistan's insistence that the service fee will be charged on all devotees who want to visit the shrine.

Pakistan has been insisting on levying the fee to meet the operational costs of the corridor linking the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district in Punjab.

As per the initial plan, both countries were to ink the agreement in the first half of November so that the corridor could be thrown open to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

The online registration of Sikh pilgrims for using the corridor will begin on October 20 even as the facilities at Ground Zero remain half-finished.

In a major initiative last November, both India and Pakistan agreed to set up the 4.2 km-long corridor to link the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib — the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev — to Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur.

Kartarpur Sahib is located in Pakistan's Narowal district across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine.

(With inputs from agencies)