Amritsar (NVI): History was created today when Prime Minister Narendra Modi threw open the Kartarpur Corridor between India and Pakistan and flagged off the first batch of more than 500 Sikh pilgrims, marking a rare goodwill in the otherwise strained relations of New Delhi and Islamabad.
While inaugurating the Integrated Check Post (ICP) and the 4.5 km Corridor to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib on Narowal district of Pakistan, the Prime Minister also expressed his gratitude to his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan and all those on the other side of the border who made this possible.
He also released a coin to commemorate the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, who spent his last 14 years at the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib shrine in Pakistan.
Addressing a large gathering the Prime Minister said that Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji was an inspiration not only to India but whole world as he taught all the importance of living by true values and also gave an economic system based on honesty and self-confidence.
“Guru Nanak Dev Ji taught about equality, brotherhood and unity in the society and fought for removing various social evils,” Modi said.
He said the Guru Vani is being translated is various world languages to benefit the younger generations with the help of the UNESCO. He said that Sultan Pur lodhi is being developed as a heritage town and a special train is launched connecting all the important sites linked to Guru Nanak Ji.
He said amongst Sri Akal Takth, Dam Dama Sahib, Tejpur Sahib, Keshgarh Sahib, Patna Sahib and Huzoor Sahib rail and air connectivity were being strengthened. Adding that a special flight between Amritsar and Nanded has begun offering its services. Similarly on the Air India flight from Amritsar to London, the “Ek Omkar” message is being played.
“The Union Government has taken one more major decision, which benefited many Sikh families living all over the world. The difficulties faced for several years by many of those living abroad to come to India have been removed. Now many families can apply for visa and OCI Cards,” Modi said.
Pakistan on Friday had said that $20 service fee will be charged from pilgrims visiting Kartarpur gurdwara even on November 9, but later announced that the service charge on the first two days will be waived off.
On October 24, India and Pakistan on October 24 signed an agreement to operationalise the corridor to Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, located about 4.5 km from the border in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province, meeting a longstanding demand of Sikhs.
According to the MoU, 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, Indian government will inform Pakistan authorities about the list of the pilgrims 10 days in advance and pilgrims will be notified through message of mail four days ahead of the travel.
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, to be informed in advance. The Pakistan side has assured India to make sufficient provision for ‘Langar’ and distribution of ‘Prasad’.
Although the pilgrimage was supposed to be free, Pakistan has decided to levy $20 as service charge per pilgrim per visit, causing unhappiness in India.
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.
India has shared its deep disappointment with Pakistan for its refusal to waive the fee.
While the agreement has been signed, the Indian government continues to urge the Pakistan government to reconsider its insistence on levying the fee.
India continues to pursue the issue of all-weather connectivity through the corridor.
In this context, Indian government has built the bridge on Indian side and a temporary service road as an interim arrangement.
For registration of pilgrims, online portal — prakashpurb550.mha.gov.in — has gone live. The pilgrims may have to necessarily register themselves online on this portal and exercise their choice to travel on any day.
Pilgrims will be informed by SMS and email of the confirmation of registration three to four days in advance of the date of travel. An Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) will also be generated and the pilgrims need to carry the ETA along with their passport when they arrive at the Passenger Terminal Building.
On November 22 last year, the Union Cabinet passed a resolution to celebrate the historic occasion of 550th Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Devji in a grand and befitting manner, throughout the country and across the globe.
The Union Cabinet also approved the building and development of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to the International Boundary, to facilitate pilgrims from India to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, round the year, in a smooth and easy manner.
The Government of India approved development of Karatarpur Sahib Corridor project on November 22 last year and the foundation stone was laid by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on 26 November.