India on Thursday signed an agreement with Pakistan on the modalities for operationalising Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, paving the way for its inauguration next month ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
The agreement was signed at Zero Line on International Border at Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.
The Indian delegation was led by SCL Das, Joint Secretary (Internal Security) in the Home Ministry and the Pakistani delegation by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mohammed Faisal.
Officials of the two countries met for a few minutes where Das and Faisal shook hands and signed the agreement.
Representatives from the ministries of external affairs, defence and home along with representatives from Punjab government were present on the occasion.
The agreement lays a formal framework for operationalising the corridor.
“Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin can use the corridor. The travel will be visa-free and pilgrims need to carry only a valid passport. Persons of Indian Origin need to carry OCI card along with the passport of their country,” the Home Ministry said.
The corridor, which connects the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur with Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan, will be open from dawn to dusk. Both countries will hold events to mark the opening of their sections of the corridor.
India and Pakistan have held a series of high-level talks for operationalising the corridor ahead of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev.
The foundation stone for Kartarpur corridor was laid on the Indian side on November 26, 2018. Two days later, the foundation stone was laid on the Pakistani side.
The Home Ministry said in a statement that 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.
“Pilgrims will have a choice to visit as individuals or in groups and also to travel on foot,” it said.
India will send the list of pilgrims to Pakistan 10 days ahead of travel date. The confirmation will be sent to the pilgrims four days before the travel date.
The ministry said Pakistan has assured India that it will make sufficient provision for ‘langar’ and distribution of ‘prasad.’
India has shared its deep disappointment with Pakistan for its refusal to waive the USD 20 service fee that will be charged from pilgrims visiting the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.
“However, in the interest of the pilgrims and timely operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor before the 550th Prakash Purb, India has agreed to sign the agreement on Thursday,” the Home Ministry said.
Pilgrims who wish to visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan should register in advance in an online portal — prakashpurb550.mha.gov.in — which has gone live from Thursday.
“The pilgrims can exercise their choice to travel on any day and 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 Authorisation will also be generated. The pilgrims need to carry the Authorisation along with their passport when they arrive at the Passenger Terminal Building,” the release said.
The corridor will also be the first visa-free connectivity between the two neighbours.