Nudge to Pakistan to drop Kartarpur $20 fee
India has again asked Pakistan to reconsider its insistence on a $20 service fee on every pilgrim using the Kartarpur Corridor, billing it as the only issue that needs to be resolved before the two sides are in a position to sign the agreement on the modalities for the pilgrimage.
This has been an irritant from the very start of the official-level talks on the corridor, with Pakistan citing international norms to justify its insistence on the fee; adding that the money collected would be used to provide better facilities for the pilgrims.
Officially confirming that this remains an issue, foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar on Thursday said: “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 (approximately Rs 1,420) on all pilgrims.
We have urged Pakistan not to do so in the interests of devotees, and also because this is a ‘P2P’ (people-to-people) initiative.”
Stating that the corridor was an important “P2P” initiative taken to coincide with the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, Kumar said: “We hope that the agreement can be concluded and signed in time for the great event.”
The pilgrimage along the corridor to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib — the final resting place of Guru Nanak in Kartarpur in Narowal district of Pakistan — is to commence on Guru Purab which will be celebrated on November 12 this year.
The corridor will connect Dera Baba Nanak Sahib on the Indian side of the border in Punjab with Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, and the pilgrimage can be completed within a day.
The Kartarpur Corridor has practically been the only point of regular contact in the bilateral relationship over the past year that saw both countries climb the escalation ladder twice — first after the Balakot strike in February and then more recently following the changes in Jammu and Kashmir after which Pakistan unilaterally downgraded diplomatic relations.
Through both the escalations, the neighbours remained committed to the corridor, although India had called for rescheduling the second meeting scheduled in April till New Delhi’s concerns regarding the inclusion of pro-Khalistani elements in Pakistan’s Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee were addressed.
Pakistan conceded four months later but only after India reconsidered its decision to not talk till the issue was settled.