India urges Pakistan to show flexibility on Kartarpur, reconsider $20 fee

New Delhi, Sep 13 (IANS) India said on Thursday it has urged Pakistan to “show some flexibility” on the Kartarpur corridor and “reconsider” its decision to charge $20 per pilgrim as service charge for using the cross-border corridor.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that India had gone for the third round of high level talks last week with an “open mind” to resolve all issues.

“That is where Pakistan kind of insisted that there has to be a fee of $20. It was not discussed. Since then, we have requested them that this is to be reconsidered. This is in the interest of pilgrims, you can’t charge somebody who is going on a pilgrimage,” Kumar said.

“The third joint secretary level meeting that took place on September 4 at Attari in Punjab, this was to basically discuss the modalities and also finalise the modalities for facilitation of pilgrims to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur,” Kumar said.

“We had hoped that all pending issues will be resolved. However, we realise that Pakistan was quite inflexible during the talks and there are three instances where we approached them to show some flexibility,” he added.

Kumar said that Pakistan did not agree to the initial number of pilgrims (10,000) that India had proposed.

“That was not agreed to by them. They cited some constraints on the infrastructure side, but we requested them to show some flexibility on this,” he said.

Kumar said that the corridor is on schedule and all the projects would be completed on time for the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism.

Earlier, in Islamabad, the Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal, asked about the proposed $20 to be charged from pilgrims, said that it would not be charged for entering the premises of Gurdwara Kartarpur Saheb.

“This fee will only be charged in order to supplement the enormous expenditure which the Government of Pakistan is undertaking to complete and maintain the Kartarpur Saheb Corridor and to provide services to the pilgrims. I would assert that this fee will not even cover a fraction of the cost that our Government is bearing in order to facilitate the pilgrims,” Faisal said at a briefing.

Pakistan’s decision to charge $20 has been slammed by many Sikhs in India, including Punjab CM Amarinder Singh.

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