India's nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan has decided to levy $20 (Rs 1,420) service fee on the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara pilgrims. Following Pakistan's decision, India has urged the neighbouring country to reconsider to levy the fee and conveyed that it would be ready to sign the agreement on Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on October 23, according to Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
In a statement, the MEA said, "Pakistan continues to insist on levying a service fee of $20 per pilgrim per visit". The government has been consistently urging Pakistan to not levy such a fee in deference to the wishes of the pilgrims. India said that it is a matter of "disappointment" when understanding has been reached on most of the elements for facilitating the visit of pilgrims from India.
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 Dev -- the founder of Sikhism -- falling on November 12, the statement said, "the government has today conveyed that we would be ready to sign the Agreement on Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on October 23".
"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 the statement.
The statement said that the Indian 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 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.
Pakistan has retained the $20 fee for every pilgrim from India visiting the Kartarpur Gurudwara, where Guru Nanak Dev spent the last 18 years of his life. Every day 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit the holy site.
The 4.2 km-long corridor from the Indian side in Dera Baba Nanak area in Punjab's Gurdaspur district will be completed by October 31, a week before the celebrations to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Narowal district of Pakistan's Punjab province is located 4.5 km from the border near Dera Baba Nanak.
(With agency inputs)