Among the many things that have Indian officials worried is whether pilgrims need to carry a passport or any identity proof will do when they cross over to Pakistan to visit the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara (Reuters file)
Among the many things that have Indian officials worried is whether pilgrims need to carry a passport or any identity proof will do when they cross over to Pakistan to visit the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara (Reuters file)

For pilgrims travelling to Pakistan’s Sikh shrine, god is in the detail

  • India and Pakistan are scheduled to hold separate ceremonies to launch the pilgrimage on 9 November
  • This is three days ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak — founder of Sikhism

New Delhi: God is in the detail, and for Indian pilgrims waiting for the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor to cross over to Pakistan to visit a revered Sikh shrine, there are many that still need to be taken care of. These small but very important issues have Indian officials worried about the smooth travel of devotees.

India and Pakistan are scheduled to hold separate ceremonies to launch the pilgrimage on 9 November, three days ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak - founder of Sikhism.

Among the many things that have Indian officials worried is whether pilgrims need to carry a passport or any identity proof will do when they cross over to Pakistan to visit the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara. Indian devotees revere the Darbar Sahib Gurudwara given that it is the place where Guru Nanak lived the last years of his life. According to an agreement signed by India and Pakistan last month, pilgrims need their passports though the travel is visa free. But a Twitter post by Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan last week which said that Sikh pilgrims need not have a passport and just need a valid identity proof has led to the confusion.

“We have asked the Pakistani side whether we need to amend the agreement to say any valid identity paper or passport. We have not got any answers as yet," said a person familiar with the development who did not want to be named. “So as of now, we are asking all pilgrims to carry their passports."

Keeping India on tenterhooks is also the fact that Pakistan had not responded till late Wednesday to a list sent across by India for an official delegation to go across on 9 November to formally flag off the event.

Then there is the issue of registration of pilgrims. India and Pakistan had agreed that names of the pilgrims, due to travel each day, will be sent 10 days in advance to Pakistan for approval. Once India gets the list back from Pakistan, the devotees would be informed that their registration has been cleared and they could make the trip. Khan’s Twitter post last week said Sikh pilgrims need not register – which has had Indian officials wondering.

“We are as of now following the terms of the agreement that we signed last month which requires that all pilgrims wishing to travel to Pakistan register with us. This is the procedure we will follow," a second person said, adding that India had sent across lists of people who wanted to travel till the 17-18 of November.

Then there are questions about the arrangements made for the Indian pilgrims – whether there will be a doctor in attendance for anyone with special medical conditions for example. “We wanted a protocol official to travel with each group of pilgrims in case of problems surfacing. But Pakistan has not responded positively to this request," said the second person cited above.

“So while there is hope on our part that the pilgrimage starts and goes on well, we wish these issues could be sorted out as soon as possible," the second person said.

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