Saturday, January 16, 2021

India Gives In To Pakistani Demand On Kartarpur Corridor Over Sikh Sentiments

India announced that it was ready to sign the Kartarpur Corridor agreement with Pakistan on October 23 – three weeks ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Sahib.

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The announcement from Delhi comes when Pakistan has invited Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia to join other Islamabad-based diplomats to visit the Line of Control and see the ground situation there with their own eyes. The guided tour [of diplomats] has been arranged by the Pakistan Army and the Foreign Office.

While Pakistan neither reacted nor made public the logistics involved while signing the Kartarpur Corridor agreement, it is understood that like the earlier meetings the historical agreement will be signed either at the Zero Point of Wagah border or the Kartarpur border.

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Pakistani PM Imran Khan would inaugurate the facility on the scheduled date as construction work has entered the final stage. The inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor would coincide with the birth anniversary celebrations of founder of Sikhism Baba Guru Nanak.

“Pakistan is all set to open its doors to Sikhs from all across the globe,” the PM wrote. “The world’s largest Gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the world,” he said.

Khan said the Kartarpur Corridor will be a major religious hub for the Sikh community. “(It) will boost the local economy (and) result in earning foreign exchange for the country creating jobs in different sectors including travel and hospitality.”

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Despite all-time low in bilateral relations, the inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor was one issue where both sides cooperated and ensured that there would be no delay. One of the sticking points in signing the agreement was the reluctance of the Indian government to make it mandatory for Sikh pilgrims to pay $20 as entry fees.

Pakistan handed the final draft of the proposed bilateral agreement over to India on October 11 and also accepted New Delhi’s demand to allow devotees of other faiths – Hindus, Christians, Zoroastrians etc – to visit the site.

New Delhi on Monday maintained its reservations about the $20 per pilgrim fee proposed by Pakistan but will be going ahead and signing the contract.

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