ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – Pakistan has struck an agreement with India on the Kartarpur Corridor after tough negotiations with the last sticking point being the $20 service fee – that was repeatedly denied by India previously, but later agreed to it reluctantly.
The first-of-its-kind agreement aims to facilitate Sikh pilgrims from India in visiting the shrine of Baba Guru Nanak – one of Sikhism’s holiest sites in Pakistan where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, died in the 16th Century – in Kartarpur, Pakistan without obtaining any visa but a permit with a validity of one day from dawn till dusk.
According to the agreement, “The government of Pakistan will charge USD 20 per pilgrim per visit as service charges.”
“5,000 pilgrims shall be permitted to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib through the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on any given day, with an additional provision for more pilgrims on special days including Gurpurab, Baisakhi, etc., subject to capacity.”
This means that the service charges of $20 will generate revenue for Pakistan and promote tourism from visitors and pilgrims from other countries as well.
Considering the agreement, the amount of revenue Pakistan can generate sums up to $100,000 every day and since the corridor will remain open 365 days of the year, it can potentially generate a direct income of USD36.5 million i.e. about Rs5.55 billion per annum.
The government’s decision to open Kartarpur Corridor and signing border agreement with India for Sikh community will open vast opportunities for religious tourism, said Foreign Office Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal.
The Sikh community from Europe, India and other countries would get to enjoy visiting their religious places in Pakistan, he said while speaking to a private news channel program.
According to foreign ministry sources, Sikh pilgrims and travelers from countries other than India will be able to travel across Pakistan on the tourist visa.
“It was very, very difficult and tough negotiations with India, because of the history we have, it is never easy, it is never simple,” Faisal had said after signing the agreement on Oct 24, while praising efforts of his team in having successful negotiations.
Faisal had said the $20 was a service charge, not a fee, and pilgrims would just have to present their passports, which would be quickly scanned, to cross in.
Pakistan has been working out a mechanism for charging the $20 fee from the pilgrims.
Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the corridor on November 9, after which visa free link between Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur and Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Punjab will open for the pilgrims.
The salient points of the agreement include:
i. The objective of this Agreement is to facilitate visa-free travel of Pilgrims from India to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan and back to India, through the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.
ii. In order to implement this Agreement, the Parties shall establish requisite infrastructure including construction of a bridge at Budhi Ravi Channel, at the earliest possible, facilitation centers and, counter for running security checks and identity card for the facilitation of Pilgrims, as agreed, in their respective territories to facilitate safe, secure, smooth and hassle-free movement of Pilgrims.
iii. The Kartarpur Sahib Corridor shall be operational from dawn to dusk, seven days a week, throughout the year, except for closure on notified days or exigencies which will be informed to Government of India in advance. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan shall ensure that all Pilgrims, who enter Pakistan on a given day, return to India the same day, before dusk.
iv. Pilgrims shall travel on valid passport. The Pilgrims will include Indian passport holders as well as persons of Indian origin who shall carry the Overseas Citizen of India Card along with their passports.
v. The Government of India shall share with the Government of Pakistan, through designated nodal points, details of the Pilgrims 10 days prior to their entry through Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. The Government of Pakistan shall share the final list of pilgrims, 4 days before the day of the visit, with the Government of India. For this the nodal points will establish a mechanism.
vi. The Government of Pakistan may issue and identity card to facilitate the Pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib solely for the purpose of religious visit. The Government of Pakistan will charge USD 20 per pilgrims per visit, as service charges.
vii. 5000 Pilgrims shall be permitted to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib through the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on any given day, with any additional provision for more Pilgrims on special days including Gurpurab, Baisakhi, etc., subject to capacity.
viii. The Pilgrims may travel as individuals or in groups, as per their choice. The Pilgrims may preferably constitute a group of at least 15 people. Pilgrims may also travel through the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on foot.
ix. It shall be the responsibility of the Parties to ensure that the Pilgrims do not carry any item from either side, mentioned in the list annexed to this Agreement.
x. The Agreement shall be implemented in accordance with the national laws, rules and regulations of the Parties. The Agreement does not affect the existing commitments under the Agreements entered between the Parties and obligations under International Law.
xi. The Parties shall designate nodal points on either side for sharing concerns, if any, arising out of the day to day operation of this Agreement.
xii. The operation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor may be suspended in case of exigencies or persistent violation of the provisions of this Agreement.
xiii. The designated nodal points between the Border Security Force and the Pakistan Rangers will deal with emergencies and exigencies, including medical evacuation of the Pilgrims.
xiv. A Joint Workin Group (JWG) shall be constituted by the Parties for facilitating the smooth implementation of this Agreement.
xv. All differences arising from, or in connection with, the interpretation of this Agreement shall be amicably settled between the Parties through diplomatic channels.
xvi. This Agreement may be amended, supplemented or modified by written mutual agreement of the Parties.
xvii. This Agreement shall enter into force on the date of signatures by the Parties and shall remain valid fo a period of 5 years, uncless terminated earlier. The parties may extend the duration of this Agreement for any period by mutual consent in writing.
xviii. Either Party may terminate this Agreement at any time by giving a notice of one month to the other party of its intention to terminate this Agreement.
What is the significance of the shrine?
Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, also called Kartarpur Sahib, is a gurdwara in Kartarpur, Shakargarh, Narowal District, Pakistan.
It is built on the historic site where Guru Nanak settled and assembled the Sikh commune after his missionary travels. The present gurdwara is built on the site where Guru Nanak died on 22 September 1539.
The shrine was built to commemorate the site where Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life until his death in 1539.
The present building was built in 1925 at a cost of Rs.1,35,600, after the original one was destroyed by floods. It was repaired by the Government of Pakistan in 1995, and fully restored in 2004, at a significant amount.
It is considered to be the second holiest site for Sikhism after Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Pakistan, which was built at the site where Guru Nanak was born.