India is likely to sign an agreement on the Kartarpur corridor with Pakistan on October 24 instead of tomorrow, postponing the event by a day, government sources have indicated. Joint Secretary (Internal Security) CL Das will meet Pakistan officials at zero point to ink the memorandum of understanding on India's behalf, a senior official told NDTV.
India and Pakistan had earlier fixed October 23 as the date for signing the agreement aimed at ensuring visa-free travel for Indian pilgrims to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib through the four-kilometre border corridor. The first such pilgrimage to the religious site, regarded as the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak, is expected to be undertaken on November 9.
India maintains that both sides are in agreement over all issues related to the Kartarpur corridor, except for a $20 service charge Pakistan intends to impose on Sikh pilgrims. Disagreement over the issue even led to a delay in launching online registration for pilgrims intending to visit the shrine.
The service charge, expected to help Pakistan rake in over Rs 21 crore each month, had become the reason for some heartburn in India. The fee was opposed by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh as well as Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, with both claiming that it could dash the dreams of less fortunate Sikh devotees in India.
In a video shared on social media, Harsimrat Badal said it was "highly shameful" for Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to think that the service fee will boost his country's economy. "How will a poor devotee pay this amount? Pakistan has made a business out of faith. Imran Khan's statement that this fee will boost the economy is highly shameful," she was heard saying in the clip.
Amarinder Singh also claimed that imposing such a fee will prevent poor pilgrims from realising their long-cherished dream of visiting the final resting place of Guru Nanak. "Let these people not be deprived of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of 'khulle darshan' of the historic Gurdwara," he tweeted.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the project on November 9, three days before the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate India's end of the corridor on the same day, news agency IANS quoted Home Ministry sources as saying today.
(With inputs from Agencies)
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