The government has blamed Pakistan for not reopening Kartarpur Corridor months after the neighbouring country restricted all travel from India, citing the surge in coronavirus cases.
"Pakistan National Command and Operations Centre has banned all travel from India, citing surge in COVID-19 cases in India since April 2021," Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai informed Lok Sabha on Tuesday in a written statement.
Congress MP from Amritsar Gurjit Singh Aujila wanted the central government to clarify when will the religious link - closed for more than a year - reopen. To this, the Union Minister replied that the movement of pilgrims through the corridor was suspended in March 2020, and has not been resumed since then.
Last year, citing improvement in the pandemic situation, Pakistan first expressed its willingness to reopen the corridor on June 27. It then said it will reopen on October 3 but India did not respond.
Ahead of state elections in Punjab, due next year, the opposition seems to be mounting pressure on the government over the issue.
Sikh devotees have been asking to reopen the religious link, specially since the government has reopened other places of worship. Numerous appeals have been made by various organisations.
Last week, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh too had made an appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi so that devotees could visit the shrine, dedicated to Sikh Guru Nanak Dev in Pakistan.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Captain Singh said his government will be happy to work in partnership with the Union government to ensure adherence to proper Covid protocol, including testing and vaccination of pilgrims using the corridor, according to an official release.
He hoped for a positive consideration by the central government. "The COVID-19 situation in Punjab has shown signs of significant improvement in the past one month and I am happy to share that yesterday, no Covid-19 related death was reported, after almost a period of one year," he wrote.
He said in the changed scenario, people have obviously again expressed their desire to have "darshan" at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.
Even Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (PSGPC) also said since the coronavirus situation is under control, India should reopen the Kartarpur corridor which is closed from their (Indian) side for more than a year.
All arrangements will be made for Indian pilgrims in a befitting manner during their yatra to Darbar Sahib, it said.
The corridor, which opened in November 2019, marking the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, gives Indian pilgrims a visa-free access to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, the last resting place of the Sikhism founder.