In meet over Kartarpur Corridor modalities, Pakistan says 'will levy service tax on pilgrims'

Though India and Pakistan failed to complete the final Kartarpur agreement, both the sides agreed upon several key issues.

In meet over Kartarpur Corridor modalities, Pakistan says 'will levy service tax on pilgrims' File Photo

The third round of meeting between India and Pakistan to finalise the modalities of Kartarpur corridor was held on Wednesday. Though the two sides failed to complete the final Kartarpur agreement, they agreed upon several key factors, including setting up of emergency evacuation procedures for the pilgrims visiting the holy shrine.

As part of the same, evacuation procedures in case of emergencies, including that of medical nature, will be worked out jointly by India and Pakistan. Apart from this, the two sides also agreed on establishing a direct line of communication between Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers.

One of the demands made by Pakistan during the meeting was that it should be allowed to levy a service fee for allowing pilgrims to visit Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib. However, no decision was taken on the same. The same was not acceptable to Indian officials.

India, on its part, reiterated the demand that Pakistan should allow Indian protocol officers to accompany pilgrims to the holy shrine everyday in order to facilitate their visit. Pakistan expressed its unwillingness to allow the presence of Indian Consular or protocol officials of the Gurudwara premises, but was interested by the Indian side to reconsider its position.

Despite some difference, the two sides agreed on several key issues such as visa free travel of Indian pilgrims, without any restrictions based on their faith. Any Indian-origin person, with an OCI card, can visit the shrine through the Kartarpur Corridor.

As per the agreement, as many as 5,000 pilgrims can visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor everyday. Additional pilgrims, over and above the figure of 5,000, can visit on special occasions, subject to capacity expansion by Pakistan side. Pakistan conveyed its commitment to increase this number to the maximum possible.

The Corridor will be operational throughout the year and the pilgrims will have a choice to visit as individuals or in groups.

Both the sides also agreed on building a bridge at the 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 decision arrived at the technical level meeting, which was held on August 30, regarding sharing of details of pilgrims using the corridor was also endorsed by both the sides.

The Pakistani side further agreed to make sufficient provision for preparation and distribution of ‘Langar’ and ‘Prasad’ for the pilgrims.

Significant progress has been made to build a state-of-the-art infrastructure, including passenger terminal on the Indian side that can handle over 15,000 pilgrims in a day, and is targeted to be completed by October 2019. The work on the four-lane highway up to the International Boundary on the Indian side is also slated to be completed by the end of this month. 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 Sri Guru Nanak Devji.

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