India may say yes to Pak fee
India may be willing to compromise on Pakistan’s insistence on charging facilitation fees of $ 20 per pilgrim for using the Kartarpur corridor. India’s priority is to get the project operational in time for Guru Nanak’s 550th birth celebrations at Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, government sources said here today.
Under prodding from the Union Home Ministry, the government had taken a tough line on the fees issue at the previous India-Pakistan official level meeting to work out the modalities for the pilgrimage. However, with all infrastructure projects on the Indian side, including a four-lane approach road and a huge pilgrim holding centre, expected to be completed by this month end, New Delhi is keen to ensure it does not get the blame if the corridor does not get started because of Pakistan’s refusal to accept some of the conditions.
India has sent its proposals to Pakistan, but there has been no word so far whether there is concurrence on any or all of them. They include an insistence on an Indian counsellor official to accompany the pilgrims and a counselor outpost at the gurdwara in Pakistan to tackle emergencies.
Pakistan has sought to dispel the impression that the fee amounts to jaziya or tax paid by non-believers. “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 Sahib corridor and to provide services to the pilgrims,” Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said.
While ex-PM Manmohan Singh is welcome to accompany one of the jathas that will go to Nankana Sahib to pay obeisance, the sources said it was unclear whether he would be witness to the inauguration of the corridor.
Meant to cover cost
This fee will only be charged to supplement the enormous expenditure which the government of Pakistan is undertaking to complete and maintain the Kartarpur Sahib corridor and to provide services to the pilgrims. — Pak Foreign Ministry spokesperson