India and Pakistan on Thursday signed a landmark agreement to operationalise the Kartarpur corridor to allow Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit the holy Darbar Sahib in Pakistan.
The agreement signing ceremony took place at the Kartarpur Zero Point at the International Border, removing a key legal hurdle for the opening of the corridor.
SCL Das Joint Secretary in the Union Home Ministry signed the pact on India’s behalf while Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal signed the agreement from Pakistan’s side.
After the historic move, Das said that with the pact being inked, a formal framework has been laid down for the operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.
Indian pilgrims of all faith and persons of Indian-origin can use the Kartarpur Corridor. The travel will be visa-free. The pilgrims need to carry only a valid passport, while persons of Indian-origin need to carry Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card along with the passport of their country.
The pilgrims need to carry the Electronic Travel Authorisation, along with their passport, when they arrive at the Passenger Terminal Building at the Punjab border.
The corridor will be open from dawn to dusk. 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 MHA joint secretary elaborated.
From the Indian side, all the required infrastructure, including the highway and the Passenger Terminal Building have been nearly completed for the timely inauguration of the corridor.
The Pakistan side has agreed to make sufficient provision for ‘langar’ and distribution of ‘prasad’ in the Gurdwara premises, the Home Ministry official said.
Meanwhile, for registration of pilgrims, online portal prakashpurb550.mha.gov.in has gone live from today.
The pilgrims will have to register themselves online on the portal and exercise their choice to travel on any day.
Pilgrims will be informed by SMS and email of the confirmation of registration 3 to 4 days in advance of the date of travel. An Electronic Travel Authorisation will also be generated.
The agreement was supposed to be signed on October 23 but got postponed due to some unspecified reason.
Despite heightened tensions along the border, India on Monday conveyed to Pakistan its readiness to sign the agreement on Kartarpur Saheb Corridor on 23 October even as it renewed its appeal to Islamabad not to insist on levying a service fee of $20 on every pilgrim visiting the gurdwara.
The corridor will connect the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Punjab with Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur, just about four km from the international border, located at Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will in November inaugurate the Kartarpur Sahib corridor, linking India with historical Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan, where Guru Nanak Dev breathed his last.
Construction of the 4.2 km-long Kartarpur corridor is targeted to be completed by October 31, a week before the celebrations to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
On November 22, last year, just a day before the 549th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the Union Cabinet decided to build and develop a corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the international border for Sikh pilgrims to visit Pakistan.