Pak sets conditions for Kartarpur corridor, opposes all Indian proposals

Work underway on the Kartarpur corridor on the Pakistani side of the border. Balakot, surgical strikes and nationalistic rhetoric have faded in anticipation of the upcoming visa-free Kartarpur corridor | Photo: Sai Manish

Pakistan has set a host of terms and conditions for the operationalisation of the Kartarpur corridor and opposed India's proposals to make it open throughout the year to facilitate travel to one of the holiest pilgrimage sites of the Sikhs, officials said Saturday.

Islamabad has either put conditions or opposed all proposals moved by New Delhi and said that only 700 pilgrimages can have 'darshan' of the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev.

Pakistan said pilgrims would be allowed to visit Kartarpur only under a special permit regime and on charging a fee against India's proposal for visa-free and no-fee travel, a government official said.

India has proposed that besides Indian nationals, Overseas Indian Card (OIC) holders should be allowed to go for the pilgrimage. But Pakistan said that only Indian citizens would be allowed.

India suggested that the corridor should be allowed for use seven days a week and 365 days in a year but Pakistan said it would be allowed only on "visiting days".

New Delhi said 5,000 visitors should be allowed every day but Islamabad said not more than 700 pilgrims would be allowed, the official said.

Pakistan has not responded to India's proposal to allow 10,000 visitors on special days. India said individual or people in groups should be allowed but Pakistan said only groups of at least 15 people would be allowed. Pakistan did not agree to India's proposal to construct a bridge over the Ravi river and also did not respond to India's proposal to allow travelers to visit Kartarpur Sahib on foot.

Despite Pakistan's "non-cooperation", construction work on the Kartarpur Sahib corridor was going on in full swing and on schedule for completing the project well before November 12, 2019, the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, another official said.

The work on the passenger terminal building (PTB) is going on at a brisk pace and in parallel with work on the four-lane highway connecting the zero point and the state-of-the-art PTB from the existing highway. The four-lane highway is 4.20 km-long and connects the existing Gurdaspur-Amritsar NH 354 highway with the zero point.

This project is being executed by the National Highway Authority of India at a cost of Rs 120 crore. A total of 53 acres have been acquired for this purpose and over 45 per cent work has been completed till date. The whole highway project would be completed by September 30, 2019, the official said.

The other component of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor is the construction of a state-of-the-art passenger terminal building with all modern public amenities.

The PTB has been designed to handle 5,000 pilgrims per day and an additional 10,000 on special occasions. The PTB project is being executed by the Land Ports Authority of India (LPAI) through M/s Shapoorji Palonji & Co at a cost of Rs 177.50 crore. A total of 50 acres have been acquired for the this purpose.

Currently, the foundation work is going on. The superstructure will be quickly erected using pre-fabricated construction elements. The pre-fab components are being prepared in parallel and the complete PTB facility will be ready by October 31, 2019.

It may be recalled that a decision was taken by the government on November 22, 2018, to celebrate 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019 throughout the country and worldwide, in a grand and befitting manner. Guru Nanak Dev is deeply revered by devotees and his message of humanity, peace and brotherhood of eternal value are regarded by all and the celebrations will help propagate his message.

One of the key decisions was that of developing the Kartarpur Sahib corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to the International Border, with all modern amenities and facilities for smooth and easy passage of pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, throughout the year.

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