Islamabad: Pakistan and India has signed the historic Kartarpur Corridor agreement, allowing Sikh pilgrims visa-free access to the religion's holy site in Narowal district. Signed by Director General South Asia and SAARC Dr Mohammad Faisal and Indian Joint Secretary for Home Affairs S. C. L. Das, at the Kartarpur zero line. The corridor will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan on November 9. He added that the prime minister had fulfilled his promise.
Salient features of the agreement
1] Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin can use the corridor
2] The travel will be visa free
3] Pilgrims need to carry only a valid passport
4] Persons of Indian origin need to carry OCI card along with the passport of their country
5] The Corridor is open from dawn to dusk.
6] Pilgrims travelling in the morning will have to return on the same day
7] The Corridor will be operational throughout the year, except on notified days, to be informed in advance
8] Pilgrims will have a choice to visit as individuals or in groups, and also to travel on foot
9] India will send the list of pilgrims to Pakistan 10 days ahead of travel date. Confirmation will be sent to pilgrims 4 days before the travel date
10] The Pakistan side has assured India to make sufficient provision for 'Langar' and distribution of 'Prasad'
Talking to the media after the signing ceremony, Dr Mohammad Faisal elaborated that pilgrims will be facilitated seven days a week from dawn till dusk. Under the agreement, India will provide a list of pilgrims ten days before their visits so that they could be properly received, adding that the first group will arrive at the pilgrimage site using the corridor on November 9.
The Foreign Office (FO) official confirmed that Islamabad will allow five thousand pilgrims daily and if there is more capacity we will accommodate them too. Roads and a reception centre have been built in the area. A huge Gurdwara has been built, which is being described as the biggest in the world.
The spokesperson further said that details of the agreement will soon be shared but added that the Sikh pilgrims will have to carry their passports and $20 fee will be charged from them. The FO official also lauded his team's efforts, saying negotiating with India were not easy because of the history the two countries share. In response to a question, Dr Faisal reiterated that Pakistan's position on occupied Kashmir has not changed.
Ex-Indian PM to attend Kartarpur opening as 'common man' instead of 'chief guest'. The shrine is about four kilometres from the border. The crossing and corridor, including a road, bridge over the Ravi River and immigration office, will replace a drawn-out visa process and circuitous journey through Pakistan.
In a statement, India's Ministry of External Affairs said New Delhi took initiatives to put in place the state of art infrastructure and open the corridor for Sikh pilgrims to visit Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.
Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the date for the inauguration. The prime minister's announcement came via a Facebook post in which he said that construction work on the Pakistani side had entered the final stage. Pakistan is all set to open its doors for Sikhs from all across the globe, he wrote. World's largest Gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the world, he said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said the Kartarpur Corridor will be a major religious hub for the Sikh community. It will boost the local economy and result in earning foreign exchange for the country creating jobs in different sectors including travel and hospitality.