New Delhi: India on Monday said it is ready to sign the agreement with Pakistan on Kartarpur Corridor on October 23 but said it is a "matter of disappointment" that the neighbouring country continues to insist on levying a service fee of USD 20 per pilgrim per visit to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib.
"While agreeing to sign the Agreement, the Government of Pakistan has been once again urged to reconsider its insistence to levy service fee on pilgrims. India would be ready to amend the Agreement accordingly at any time," the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.
"It is a matter of disappointment that while understanding has been reached on most of the elements for facilitating the visit of pilgrims from India, Pakistan continues to insist on levying a service fee of USD 20 per pilgrim per visit. Government has consistently urged Pakistan that in deference to the wishes of the pilgrims, it should not levy such a fee," MEA said.
The MEA informed that the government of India has taken the initiative to put in place the state of art infrastructure and open the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on the auspicious occasion of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji.
"In view of the long pending demand of the pilgrims to have visa-free access to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib and in the interest of operationalisation of the Corridor in time before the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak falling on November 12, Government has today conveyed that we would be ready to sign the Agreement on Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on October 23, 2019," the MEA said.
This was done so that the pilgrims from India and those holding Overseas Citizen of India Card can undertake a visit to the holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, currently in Pakistan.
As late as on October 17, India had urged Pakistan to not levy the proposed USD 20 fee on pilgrims visiting the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in the interest of devotees.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to a query that an agreement on all other issues, except the matter of service fee, has been reached with Pakistan after several rounds of discussion.
He had said Kartarpur Sahib Corridor was an important people-to-people initiative taken by India to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji.
"Pakistan insists on levying a fee of USD 20 (approx. Rs. 1420) on all pilgrims. We have urged Pakistan not to do so in the interests of devotees and also because this is a P2P initiative. We hope that the agreement can be concluded and signed in time for the great event," he had added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the corridor, connecting the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab's Gurdaspur with Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan on November 8.