NEW DELHI: Pakistan collects a US$20 fee from every Indian citizen who uses the Kartarpur Corridor to travel visa-free to the Sikh diaspora across the border, despite the Indian side’s insistence that the fee is scrapped, External Affairs Minister V Muraleedharan said on Thursday.
In a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Muraleedharan said that around 130,000 pilgrims used the Kartarpur Corridor to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur after its opening in 2019.
India and Pakistan have agreed on a facility that allows visa-free travel to a gurdwara built in Pakistan’s Punjab province where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, spent the last years of his life.
“Since its inauguration on November 9, 2019, around 130,000 pilgrims have used the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur.
The Government of India has consistently urged the Government of Pakistan not to collect fees from pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur via the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, respecting the wishes of the pilgrims,” Muraleedharan said.
“However, Pakistan continues to collect $20 from each pilgrim for each visit,” he said.
An agreement between the Indian and Pakistan governments to facilitate pilgrims’ visits to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur was signed on 24 October 2019.
This was done to “meet the long-standing demand of Indian citizens and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) to have easy and smooth access” to the gurdwara. They commissioned the corridor in time for Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary, Muraleedharan said.
The agreement provides for visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims and OCI card holders from India to gurdwaras in Pakistan on a daily basis throughout the year.