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India to sign Kartarpur agreement with Pakistan on October 23 despite USD 20 service fee for pilgrims

The External Affairs Ministry said in a statement that the Centre wants to finalise the agreement on October 23 in order to operationalise the Kartarpur corridor before November 12 in view of the demand of pilgrims to have visa-free access to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.

India to sign Kartarpur agreement with Pakistan on October 23 despite USD 20 service fee for pilgrims

New Delhi: The Centre on Monday said that it would sign the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor agreement with Pakistan on October 23 despite Islamabad's reluctance to withdraw the service fee of  USD 20 (around Rs 1,500) on each pilgrim.

The External Affairs Ministry said in a statement that the Centre wants to finalise the agreement on October 23 in order to operationalise the Kartarpur corridor before November 12 in view of the demand of pilgrims to have visa-free access to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.

“While agreeing to sign the agreement, the Government of Pakistan has been once again urged to reconsider its insistence to levy service fee of $20 on pilgrims. India would be ready to amend the Agreement accordingly at any time,” the MEA said.

Describing Pakistan’s proposed service fee as a “matter of disappointment”, the MEA reiterated that New Delhi still wants Islamabad to withdraw the service fee. It is to be noted that India and Pakistan were set to ink the agreement on Saturday (October 19) but it got delayed over the issue of service fee.

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The corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of Punjab. The corridor will facilitate visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, which was established in 1522 by Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak Dev. The corridor will also be the first visa-free corridor between the two neighbours, according to reports.

The Indian side of the corridor will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the project on November 9, three days before the 550th birth anniversary Baba Guru Nanak.