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India, Pak sign Kartarpur pact, service fee dispute remains
India, Pak sign Kartarpur pact, service fee dispute remains

Dera Baba Nanak (Punjab), Oct 25 (TIWN) India and Pakistan on Thursday signed an agreement to operationalise the Kartarpur Corridor even as the ticklish issue of a $20 service fee imposed by Islamabad remained unresolved.

The agreement paves the way for the inauguration of the Corridor next month ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, and will enable devotees to visit throughout the year the holy shrine located 4.5 km from the border in Narowal district of Pakistan''s Punjab province.  The signing ceremony took place at the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor Zero Point, International Border, Dera Baba Nanak.  With the signing of this agreement, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs S.C.L. Das said a formal framework has been laid down for operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. 

The travel will be visa free and the pilgrims will have a choice to visit individually or in groups, and also to travel on foot.  Under the agreement, the Indian government will inform Pakistan authorities about the list of the pilgrims 10 days in advance and pilgrims will be notified through mail four days ahead of the travel.  Pilgrims need to carry only a valid passport and Persons of Indian Origin need to carry Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card along with the passport of their country.  The Corridor will be open from dawn to dusk and the pilgrims travelling in the morning will have to return on the same day. The Corridor will be operational throughout the year, except on notified days, which will be informed in advance.  The Pakistan side has assured India to make sufficient provision for ''Langar'' and distribution of ''Prasad''. 

The main issue that has been a point of discussion is the insistence of Pakistan to levy $20 as service charge per pilgrim per visit, Das said.  "India has consistently urged Pakistan to not levy any fee on the pilgrims. It was stressed time and again, including in the previous three Joint Secretary level meetings and at the diplomatic level, that this is not in consonance with the religious and spiritual sentiments of Indian pilgrims," he added

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