India agrees to sign Kartarpur accord: Sources

Pakistani Sikhs walk before a groundbreaking ceremony for the Kartarpur Corridor to be set up between India and Pakistan in Kartarpur. – [Photo: VCG]

ISLAMABAD: The Indian government on Monday accepted the draft of Pakistan on the Kartarpur corridor and announced that it would sign an agreement with Islamabad on October 23.
According to diplomatic sources, India has agreed to sign the Kartarpur corridor agreement with Pakistan on October 23, three weeks ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Sahib. Pakistan had maintained 20 US dollars fee for every pilgrim which has been accepted by the Indian government, said diplomatic sources. The focal persons of both countries will sign the Kartarpur corridor agreement on October 23, sources added.
Talking to media, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has expressed pleasure over India’s decision for signing the Kartarpur agreement and congratulated the Sikh community. Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday announced that Pakistan is all set to open its doors for the Sikh community from across the globe.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, he said
construction work on the Kartarpur project has en
tered the final stage and will be open to the public on November 9.The prime minister said the world’s largest Gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the world. On Monday, Pakistan had handed over the final draft agreement for the Kartarpur Corridor to India. In the final draft agreement, Islamabad had kept a service fee of $20 for Sikh pilgrims visiting the Corridor from the Indian side, unchanged. As many as 5,000 Sikh pilgrims can visit Kartarpur daily and Pakistan will consider the possibility of allowing more pilgrims on special occasions.
Meanwhile, despite 18 days left for the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor, India has halted the registration process for the Sikh pilgrims who intend to visit Pakistan’s Kartarpur on the 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in early November, due to unclear reasons, sources familiar with the matter told Dunya News on Monday.
Contrarily, Pakistan’s on this side of the border pushed the Kartarpur corridor into its final phase for facilitating Sikh pilgrims and promoting religious harmony. Sources said that so far both countries could not agree to a number of issues, including India’s aberrant demand to Pakistan to abolish $20 charge per pilgrim. However, Pakistan has repeatedly refused this demand, turning the matter into serious bone of contention. Both South Asian rivals were due to sign a pact to settle the remaining issues by the end of last week, but that did not happen.
Reportedly, construction process and painting of the shrine has been completed and electricity has been supplied to the site from Shakar Garh’s grid station. Imported marble has been used on the floor of the shrine that is spread on 10 acres. Fire extinguishers, sound systems and CCTV security cameras have been installed at the site. Besides, construction of temporary guesthouses and a border terminal building has also been completed.
Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the project on November 9, three days before the 550th birth anniversary Baba Guru Nanank that will be celebrated on November 12. Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a message shared on social media on Sunday, reiterated that the work on the Kartarpur Corridor has entered last stage.
He further mentioned that Sikhs from all countries will travel to the world s largest Gurdwara. “This Gurdwara will strengthen local economy […] many jobs will also be created in travelling, religious tourism and hospitality sectors,” he stated. “Buddhists have also been coming to visit different religious spots in Pakistan.”
Pakistan had also accepted India’s demand of facilitating visa-free movement of 5,000 Sikh pilgrims per day, and now they will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur. In November last year, Khan laid the foundation stone for the corridor, months after he assumed office after winning majority of seats in the parliament. India’s cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu and other officials had attended the ceremony.
Earlier, Pakistan formally invited former prime minister of India Manmohan Singh to attend the opening ceremony of Kartarpur Corridor on the occasion of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.
Speaking on the invitation to former PM Manmohan Singh, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Saturday said he (Manmohan Singh) will visit Pakistan as a ‘yatri’ (ordinary citizen) and not as chief guest for the corridor’s opening. “He is welcome even as a common participant,” the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said while talking to the media on Saturday.
Mr Qureshi said Prime Minister Imran Khan would inaugurate Pakistan’s part of the corridor, facilitating pilgrimage of 5,000 Indian Sikhs everyday to their holy place.
India was initially reluctant to open the corridor but due to public pressure from the Indian Punjab, New Delhi decided to arrange a ceremony related to the corridor the same day, he said, adding that the arrangements made by Pakistan were way better than those being finalised by India.–Agencies