NEW DELHI :
With just days left to go before the official opening of the Kartarpur corridor allowing Indian pilgrims to cross into Pakistan to visit a revered Sikh shrine, people familiar with the matter have said that Pakistan was adopting an uncooperative attitude that goes against the spirit of the pilgrimage.
A list of prominent Sikh leaders and other dignitaries who are part of the inaugural “jatha" or religious group who were to undertake the pilgrimage on 9th November had been sent to the Pakistani side, one of the people cited above said. “However, we are yet to receive confirmation from Pakistan" whether the people on the list will be given permission to make the pilgrimage, one of the people cited above said.
Given that several prominent dignitaries were to travel as part of the first group to Katarpur Sahib gurudwara in Pakistan, India was looking at sending an advance team to gauge the arrangements made, the person cited above said. “However, Pakistan has not allowed any advance team from India to visit Kartarpur Sahib to confirm the arrangements made," the person said.
The Kartarpur corridor connects the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district in India’s Punjab province, facilitating visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims who just need a permit to cross over to Pakistan. Indian devotees revere the Darbar Sahib Gurudwara given that it is the place where Guru Nanak – the founder of Sikh faith – lived the last years of his life.
A pact to allow Indian devotees to cross over was signed by S.C.L. Das, joint secretary, internal security, in the Indian home ministry, and Mohammad Faisal, director general, South Asia, in the Pakistan foreign office last month. It pact permits Indians and people of Indian origin to use the corridor to visit the shrine. The people need to carry their passports and an electronic travel authorization they receive if their registration for the pilgrimage is deemed successful. People of Indian origin holding the passport of another country will need to carry their Overseas Citizen of India card.
According to the text of the agreement, names of the devotees have to be sent to Pakistan in advance and once approved, they can make the trip.
A second person cited above said there was “absolute confusion" after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan last week said in a Twitter post that Sikh pilgrims would not require passports only an identification document to undertake the pilgrimage.
The agreement says that pilgrims need to carry their passport while crossing from India into Pakistan. “There has been no offer from Pakistan to amend the MOU in light of Imran Khan's tweet. Pilgrims are therefore unclear on the documents they need to carry," the second person cited above said.
“Pakistan has unilaterally decided on the programme and timing of the inaugural jatha without taking into account our inputs in this matter," the second person said adding “critical information such as medical facilities available and security arrangements for the pilgrims have also not been shared with us."
India had agreed to the terms and conditions put forth by Pakistan including signing the agreement for opening the corridor despite Pakistan not agreeing to waive off a $20 service charge to be levied on each pilgrim, the second person cited above said. This was done keeping in mind the sentiments of the pilgrims.