Visa-free travel to Kartarpur Gurudwara

Finally, Pakistan had to agree in principle in allowing 5000 Indian pilgrims to visit the Kartarpur Gurdwara every day using the planned corridor without any restrictions . India had initially desired for more pilgrims, which Pakistan vide its ‘solemn commitment ‘ has agreed to but on special occasions like on Baisakhi etc only subject to the expansion of facilities by that country. It may be recalled that in the year 2018, the two countries had agreed to set up the border crossing linking historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the revered place of Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak Dev to Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district. Persons of Indian origin holding Overseas Citizenship Of India (OCI) card too could visit the gurdwara using Kartarpur corridor. It may be recalled that on November 26 last year , Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh had laid the foundation stone for the corridor in Gurdaspur district, Punjab.
The arrangement of visa free travel , however, was decided and finalised in a meeting between the officials of the two countries at Attari on September 4 . However, the meeting fell short of finalising the Draft Agreement on the cross border route or the corridor . It is totally unbecoming on the part of Pakistan in insisting on charging a “service fee” from Indian pilgrims which in other words meant an unwarranted tax and also not allowing protocol officials to accompany them. Pakistan, while trying to feign a flexible attitude towards the entire issue could not at the same time, help exhibiting total and consistent inflexibility in making the pilgrimage easy and hassles free which resulted in not finalising of an agreement . Hope better sense prevailed with Pakistan looking to the sensitive issue involving the faith and devotion and being purely religious in nature and in the next meeting genuine demands put forth by the Indian side would be considered without any pre-conditions.
Needless to add, in this connection before the meeting of the officials of the two countries under reference, a technical team from both the countries had met on August 30. The meeting of September 4 was the second meeting after the Government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and the Parliament passed the Reorganisation Bill of the State on August 6. That development though purely an internal matter of India, a sovereign and independent country, has rattled and upset Pakistan especially when seen in the context of total international support to India as also total calm and tranquillity prevailing in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir. However, that development casting any shadow on finalising of the remaining points in order to have an agreement reached between the two countries on the corridor issue is highly deplorable on the part of Pakistan and the world community was watching the same to the detriment of Pakistani image in the comity of nations.
Nevertheless, it is beyond comprehension that Pakistan is showing total reluctance and unwillingness in allowing the presence of Indian consular or protocol officials during the pilgrimage on the gurdwara premises. However, the number of pilgrims being allowed to the extent of 5000 on daily basis could exceed the limit on certain occasions which is hoped to be allowed as the corridor would be operative throughout the year and seven days a week . The pilgrims could visit as individuals or in groups and on foot but since nowhere in the world any fee or tax was payable for visiting any gurdwara , Pakistan could not be an exception although it was not in any way related to being unaffordable or out of paying capacity but a matter of humanitarian cause involving religious feelings. However let us hope that the corridor opens before the year long celebrations to mark 550th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak in November this year.