Third round of talks with Pak on Kartarpur hit roadblock, service fee clause ‘unacceptable’

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Attari, September 4: The third round of talks between officials of India and Pakistan on the modalities for operationalisation of Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib corridor did not reach any conclusion due to inflexible attitude of the other side on two issues.

The pact could not be finalised today as Pakistan insisted on charging a service fee of US dollar 20 per pilgrim as entry fee to the corridor leading to the holiest shrine located in district Narowal across the border.

Another issue on which Pakistan remained adamant was not to allow the Indian consular or protocol officials to accompany the pilgrims for their facilitation on the shrine premises.

SCL Das, Joint Secretary, Internal Security, in India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, who led the Indian delegation, said India and Pakistan reached an understanding on visa-free travel of Indian pilgrims, without any restrictions based on their faith but these two demands have been straightaway rejected by Pakistan, as of now.

Ministry of Home Affairs Joint Secretary (Internal Security) SCL Das addresses the media after a meeting with Pakistani counterparts at Attari on Wednesday,
He said Pakistan has been insisted to reconsider these issues and hoped that another round of talks may happen on these issues.

“Nowhere in the world an entrance fee to gurdwara is charged. It is against the ethics and principles of Sikh religion. Considering it repugnant to the spirit of Kartarpur Sahib corridor, we have urged Pakistan officials to reconsider it. They justified it by saying that they have pumped in lot of money to facilitate this corridor. Similarly, it would be requisite to have officials accompanying a VIP, an elder or ill devotee for their facilitation, but they seldom considered it necessary. We have urged them to review these two issues which matter to us. As they didn’t agree to our demands, the meeting could not reach any conclusion and agreement could not be finalised. May be, another meeting could be scheduled to resolve the issues,” he said.

However, except for these two conditions, an agreement was reached on visa-free travel of Indian pilgrims without any restrictions based on faith. Individuals or groups of Indian origin holding Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card can also visit the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.

Despite, persistent request to allow additional 10,000 pilgrims on special occasions like Gurpurbs and Baisakhi, Pakistan has showed infrastructural constraints on its side.

It was mutually agreed upon to cater to 5,000 pilgrims through corridor every day from dawn to dusk, whereas over and above the figure of 5,000 can visit on special occasions, subject to capacity expansion by Pakistan side. “Pakistan has conveyed its assurance to increase this number to the maximum possible,” said Das.

The aspirants would have to apply at least 10 days in advance and a four-day notice of confirmation of his travel to the shrine.

Both the sides agreed to build the bridge at Budhi Ravi channel. Owing to the time constraint, the delegates agreed to construct a temporary crossing point coordinates, till the construction of the bridge is completed on the Pakistan side.

Pakistan also agreed to make sufficient provision for preparation and distribution of ‘langar’ and ‘parshad’ for the pilgrims.

Deepak Mittal, Joint Secretary, MEA, said both sides agreed to maintain secure environment during the movement of pilgrims. During the last meeting held at Wagah, a detailed dossier to highlight this concern was given to Pakistan.

“This time, too, we shared our concern regarding individual or organisations based in Pakistan who may attempt to disrupt the pilgrimage and misuse this opportunity. From our side, robust security architecture is being put in place,” he said.

India Times
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