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India


India, Pak inch ahead on Kartarpur, but fee clause still an issue

India, Pak inch ahead on Kartarpur, but fee clause still an issue

New Delhi, Oct 21 (UNI) A day after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that Kartarpur Corridor will be opened on November 9, India on Monday said it is ready to sign agreement with its western neighbour on iconic Sikh pilgrimage hub.

The pact will be inked on October 23.

New Delhi has, however, expressed "disappointment" that while an understanding has been reached for facilitating the visit of pilgrims from India, Islamabad continues to insist on levying a service fee of USD 20 per pilgrim per visit.

In his Facebook post, Pakistan PM on Sunday said: "World’s largest Gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the World. This will become a major religious hub for the Sikh community, and will boost the local economy, result in earning foreign exchange for the country creating jobs in different sectors including travel and hospitality".

An MEA statement in Delhi on Monday said: "The Government has consistently urged Pakistan that in deference to the wishes of the pilgrims, it should not levy such a fee".

However, it said in view of the long pending demand of the pilgrims to have visa free access to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib and in the interest of operationalisation of the Corridor in time before the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak falling on 12 November 2019, "Government has today conveyed (to Pak authorities) that we would be ready to sign the Agreement on Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on October 23, 2019".

The statement also said while agreeing to sign the Agreement, the Government of Pakistan "has been once again urged to reconsider its insistence" to levy service fee on pilgrims.

India would be ready to amend the Agreement accordingly at any time, it said.

The government has taken the initiative to put in place state of art infrastructure and open the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on the auspicious occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev so that pilgrims from India and those holding Overseas Citizen of India Card can undertake visit to the holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

Indian is building the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district up to the border while Pakistan has pledged to build the corridor from the border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.

India on Thursday stuck to its ground that Pakistan needs to give up its stand on levying a fee of USD 20 on pilgrims visiting Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara and said broad agreement on all other issues have been reached.

"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 USD 20 (approx. Rs. 1420) on all pilgrims. We have urged Pakistan not to do so in the interests of devotees, and also because this is a people to people initiative," MEA spokesman Raveesh Kumar has said in response to queries from the media.

Meanwhile, sources said former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh would visit the historic shrine as a common pilgrim but would not attend the 'formal inauguration' - which is likely to be addressed by Pakistan Prime Minister Mr Khan.

Dr Singh would be a part of Sikh Jatha delegation led by Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and the group is likely to return the same day.

UNI DEVN SHK2056

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