India, Pak Agree on Making Kartarpur Visa-Free for 5,000 Pilgrims Daily!

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Photo of India, Pak Agree on Making Kartarpur Visa-Free for 5,000 Pilgrims Daily! by Samarth Arora

Sunday marked a historic turn of events between India and Pakistan. The Indian government stated that our neighbours have, in principle, agreed to build a bridge to connect with the pilgrimage of Kartarpur on the Indian side. The accordance allows visa-free travel for Indian passport holders and OCI card-holders.

India, with crucial safety concerns on mind, handed over a dossier to Pakistan about the disruptive elements based in Pakistan, which might try to hinder the journey to the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara. Islamabad then assured that no anti-India activity would be permissible or tolerated.

(c) Money Control

Photo of Attari, Punjab, India by Samarth Arora

The biggest concern was the presence of a leading Khalistani separatist in a committee appointed by Islamabad on the project. After the second round of talks between the two countries on the initiative, Home Ministry Joint Secretary SCL Das cleared that the controversial Sikh leader Gopal Singh Chawla was confirmed to have been dropped from various Pakistani bodies, including as secretary general of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC).

He commented that Pakistani authorities were informed about the ban imposed by Government of India on US-based pro-Khalistan body, Sikhs for Justice. India’s gazette notification banning it was also handed over to the neighbours, along with the clear knowledge that this organisation is operating from their land.

Proposed Kartarpur Corridor (c) Hindustan Times

Photo of India, Pak Agree on Making Kartarpur Visa-Free for 5,000 Pilgrims Daily! by Samarth Arora

To make the journey comfortable for pilgrims, the Indian delegation sought consular presence in the Gurdwara to provide any kind of needed assistance. Indian government is taking all necessary measures to make sure that the sentiments of pilgrims and their health face no harm for a year-round religious experience.

The External Affairs Ministry passed a statement, saying that visa-free travel is applicable for Indian passport holders and OCI card holders, on all days of the week. The pilgrimage is to remain open throughout the year. However, the number of pilgrims per day is capped at 5,000. An additional 10,000 additional pilgrims will be allowed on special occasions without any restriction in terms of faith.

If needed, a fee or a permit system might be put in place for easy management. The Indian delegation comprised representatives from the Defence Ministry, Home Ministry, the Punjab government, External Affairs Ministry, and the NHAI.

Das clarified that Pakistani authorities have been requested to honour religious sentiments by removing the encroachment and restoration of the land belonging to the Gurudwara. Pakistan has responded positively, agreeing to look into the issue.

(c) IFJ

Photo of India, Pak Agree on Making Kartarpur Visa-Free for 5,000 Pilgrims Daily! by Samarth Arora

A four-lane highway to the crossing point at the Indian Border is progressing well as per schedule. Its completion is expected by the end of September. India is also constructing a state-of-the-art passenger terminal facility to accommodate around 15,000 passengers at any time.

There was a debate between the two countries over connecting at the zero point. While India is constructing a bridge at the zero point and urged Pakistan to build the same, Pakistan has proposed to build a causeway which is not acceptable to India as it has been insisting on an all-weather bridge. Pakistan has eventually agreed, in principle, to build a bridge at the earliest. As the construction is awaited, India has offered to make interim arrangements for making the corridor operational as soon as by November, coinciding with the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

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