India agrees to sign Kartarpur pact, urges Pak to reconsider fee clause
New Delhi, Oct 21: India has decided to go ahead with the Kartarpur agreement with Pakistan but urged Islamabad to to reconsider fee clause.
"If Pakistan wants to levy a service charge despite India's objections, India will go ahead with the Kartarpur Corridor agreement keeping religious sentiments and longstanding demand in mind, " the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.
"In view of the long pending demand of pilgrims to have visa-free access to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib& in the interest of operationalisation of Kartarpur Corridor in time before 12 November, the government conveys that we would be ready to sign Agreement on Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on October 23," the statement said.
"The government has taken the initiative to put in place the state of art infrastructure and open the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on the auspicious occasion of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji so that the pilgrims from India and those holding Overseas Citizen of India Card can undertake visit to the holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, currently in Pakistan," the MEA 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," said MEA.
"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 continues to insist on levying a service fee of USD 20 per pilgrim per visit," the MEA said.
India has been consistantly expressed disappointment over Pakistan's "persistent inflexibility" on USD 20 service fee issue and had asked it to reconsider it.
In a major initiative last November, both India and Pakistan had agreed to set up the Kartarpur corridor.
The corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district in Punjab and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, which is located in Pakistan's Narowal district across the Ravi river.