India and Pakistan have reached at a point of understanding on visa-free travel of Indian pilgrims to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib based on their faith but no formal agreement could be signed.
“However, owing to certain differences on a few key issues, an agreement could not be finalised. Pakistan has insisted on charging a service fee for allowing pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, which is not agreeable in the spirit of smooth and easy access through the corridor. Pakistan has also shown its unwillingness to allow the presence of Indian consular or protocol officials at the gurdwara premises. Pakistan side has been urged to reconsider its position,” a government source said.
The third round of talks on the modalities for operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor was held at Attari checkpoint in Punjab on Wednesday.
The Indian delegation was led by Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Pakistani delegation led by Director General (South Asia and SAARC), Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Persons of Indian origin holding OCI card too can visit Holy Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor. 5,000 pilgrims can visit Holy Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor every day. Additional pilgrims, over and above the figure of 5,000, can visit on special occasions, subject to capacity expansion by Pakistan side. Pakistan has conveyed its solemn commitment to increase this number to the maximum possible,” the source said.
The corridor will be operational throughout the year, seven days a week, an understanding was reach and pilgrims will have a choice to visit as individuals or in groups, and on foot.
“Both sides agreed to build the bridge at Budhi Ravi Channel. Pending the construction of the bridge on the Pakistan side, both sides agreed to the crossing point coordinates of the temporary service road being built,” the source said.
Both sides also agreed upon emergency evacuation procedures, especially medical emergencies. A direct line of communication between Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers will be used for the same, the source said.
Both sides also agreed to ensure safe and secure environment for the movement of pilgrims.
Pakistan has been requested, once again, to allow protocol officers from India to accompany pilgrims every day for facilitating their visit, the source said.
The Pakistan side has agreed to make sufficient provision for preparation and distribution of ‘Langar’ and ‘Prasad’ for the pilgrims.
All the facilities on Indian side would be ready for the pilgrimage through Kartarpur Corridor on the auspicious occasion of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak.