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Only passport-holding Indians eligible to visit Kartarpur as Pakistan creates confusion

Pakistan has been changing its stand on who all can visit Kartarpur Sahib by stating that Indian pilgrims will not require passports to visit the shrine and only a valid identity proof will do and then coming out with another statement that only those with valid passports can do so. 

Only passport-holding Indians eligible to visit Kartarpur as Pakistan creates confusion

New Delhi: Indians with a valid passport will be allowed to visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan's Punjab province, the Central Government clearly stated on Thursday. The development comes as Pakistan has been trying to create confusion in connection with the visit to Kartapur Sahib ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak Dev.

Pakistan has been changing its stand on who all can visit Kartarpur Sahib by stating that Indian pilgrims will not require passports to visit the shrine and only a valid identity proof will do and then coming out with another statement that only those with valid passports can do so.

On one hand, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has tweeted that no passport is required for those visiting Kartarpur Sahib, but Major General Asif Ghafoor, the Pakistani Army spokesperson and Director-General of its Inter-Services Public Relations, stated that pilgrims would require a passport.

India has, however, maintained that terms in the agreement signed between India and Pakistan on October 24, 2019, will be applicable to those visiting Kartarpur and no norms will be waived off or changed just on the basis of Imran Khan's tweet. If at all Pakistan is ready to allow Indians to visit the shrine without a passport, another agreement, mentioning the clause, should be signed between the two countries.

However, Pakistan is tight-lipped on India's stance.

India signed an agreement with Pakistan on the modalities for operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on October 24. Representatives from the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Defence, and Ministry of Home Affairs along with a Punjab Government delegation were present during the signing ceremony.

The highlights of the agreement were:

- Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin can use the corridor;
- The travel will be Visa-free;
- Pilgrims need to carry only a valid passport;
- Persons of Indian Origin need to carry OCI card along with the passport of their country;
- The Corridor is open from dawn to dusk. Pilgrims travelling in the morning will have to return on the same day;
- The Corridor will be operational throughout the year, except on notified days, to be informed in advance;
- Pilgrims will have a choice to visit as individuals or in groups, and also to travel on foot;
- India will send the list of pilgrims to Pakistan 10 days ahead of travel date. Confirmation will be sent to pilgrims four days before the travel date;
- The Pakistan side has assured India to make sufficient provision for 'Langar' and distribution of 'Prasad'.

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Imran Khan had on November 1 announced waiving conditions of carrying a passport for identification and prior registration for the visitors. The Pakistan government also exempted the Indian pilgrims from paying a $20 entry fee on the day of the inauguration of the corridor and Guru Nanak Dev's birthday.

But now, as per the present circumstances, it appears Pakistan is trying to malign India's image on religious grounds.  

The Kartarpur corridor will be inaugurated on Saturday ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the corridor from the Indian side while Khan will inaugurate it from Pakistan.