India, Pak agree to visa-free travel of Indian pilgrims for Kartarpur Sahib Corridor
India and Pakistan today agreed to visa-free travel of Indian pilgrims, without any restrictions based on their faith for the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. The understanding was reached during the third round of talks on the modalities for operationalization of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor held today at Attari.
The Indian delegation led by Joint Secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs held detailed discussions with the Pakistan delegation led by Director General, South Asia and SAARC in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They also agreed that Persons of Indian origin holding OCI card too can visit Holy Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib using the Corridor.
Five thousand pilgrims can visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib using the Corridor every day. Additional pilgrims, over and above the figure of five thousand, can visit on special occasions but that will be subject to capacity expansion by Pakistan side. Pakistan has conveyed its solemn commitment to increase this number to the maximum possible. Sources said, the Corridor will be operational throughout the year and seven days a week. Pilgrims will have a choice to visit as individuals or in groups, and on foot.
Both the sides agreed to build the bridge at Budhi Ravi Channel. Pending the construction of the bridge on the Pakistan side, both sides agreed to the crossing point coordinates of the temporary service road being built. They also agreed upon emergency evacuation procedures, especially medical emergencies. A direct line of communication between Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers will be used for the same.
The decision arrived at the technical level meeting on 30 August 2019 regarding sharing of details of pilgrims using the Corridor has been endorsed by both the sides. The two countries agreed upon ensuring safe and secure environment for the movement of pilgrims. Pakistan has been requested, once again, to allow protocol officers from India to accompany pilgrims every day for facilitating their visit. The Pakistan side has agreed to make sufficient provision for preparation and distribution of Langar and Prasad for the pilgrims.
Owing to certain differences on a few key issues, the agreement could not be finalized. Pakistan has insisted on charging a service fee for allowing Pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, which is not agreeable in the spirit smooth and easy access through the Corridor. Pakistan has also shown its unwillingness to allow the presence of Indian Consular or Protocol officials at the Gurdwara premises. Pakistan side was urged to reconsider its position.
Sources said, Significant progress has been made to build a state-of-the-art infrastructure, including passenger terminal on the Indian side that can handle over fifteen thousand pilgrims in a day, and is targeted to be completed by next month. The work on the four-lane highway up to the International Boundary on the Indian side is on schedule. It will be completed by end of this month. All the facilities on Indian side would be ready for the pilgrimage through Kartarpur Corridor on the auspicious occasion of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Devji.