Pakistan High Commission for India on Monday issued over 4,200 visas for Indian Sikh Pilgrims ahead of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak. The pilgrims will cross over the Attari/Wagah border by foot in two groups on November 5-6 for the period from November 5-14
Earlier, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced the waive off of certain conditions for the Indian pilgrims who will visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur of Narowal District. The Kartarpur Corridor will be inaugurated on November 9 ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak on November 12.
Taking to Twitter, Khan had made the announcements--1) the pilgrims won't need a passport but only a valid identity card and 2) they no longer have to register ten days in advance. He also waived off the $20 service fee but only on the days of the inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor (November 9) and on Guru Nanak's birth anniversary (November 12).
"For Sikhs coming for the pilgrimage to Kartarpur from India, I have waived off 2 requirements: i) they won't need a passport - just a valid ID; ii) they no longer have to register 10 days in advance. Also, no fee will be charged on the day of inauguration & on Guruji's 550th birthday," Khan had tweeted.
Islamabad has levied a service fee of USD 20 (around Rs 1,420) on each pilgrim despite India's request to reconsider the fee.
India and Pakistan on October 24 signed an agreement to operationalise the Kartarpur corridor. Ministry of Home Affairs Joint Secretary SCL Das said that the signing of the agreement meant that a formal framework has been laid down by India and Pakistan on Kartarpur Corridor.
He had said that the Kartarpur corridor will be open for Indian persons of all faith and the travel will be visa-free. Das had also said that the pilgrims will have to carry a valid passport. "Indian pilgrims of all faith and persons of Indian origin they can use the #KartarpurCorridor. The travel will be visa-free. Pilgrims need to carry only a valid passport," Das had remarked. "Corridor will be open from dawn to dusk. Pilgrims travelling in the morning will have to return on the same day. Corridor will be operational throughout the year, except on notified days, to be informed in advance," Das had added.
The online portal (http://prakashpurb550.mha.gov.in) for registration of pilgrims had also gone live on October 24. The MHA Joint Secretary also told media that Pakistan has agreed to make sufficient provision for ‘langar’ and distribution of ‘prasad’ in the premises of Gurdwara.
The agreement will remain in force for 5 years and it can be extended by mutual consent. The agreement can be terminated by either side by giving one month's notice. The operation of the corridor can be suspended if a persistent violation of the agreement happens and all differences will be resolved through diplomatic channels. As per the agreement reached between the two sides, two nodal points will be established on both sides to sort out concerns arising from the operation of the corridor. The BSF and Pakistan rangers will establish nodal points to deal with emergencies including the medical evacuation of pilgrims.
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.