New Delhi: India and Pakistan are expected to discuss all “outstanding” matters concerning the Kartarpur corridor — including the issue of Pakistan insisting on charging a service fee from pilgrims — during the proposed fourth round of talks likely to take place next week.
The next round, which is proposed to be held at Wagah in Pakistan, will “only focus on discussing all outstanding issues” pertaining to stationing of Indian consular officials on both sides of the corridor, laws governing the corridor and $20 service fee that Pakistan wants to charge, sources told ThePrint.
The sources also said these three issues are the main hurdles even as both sides continue to “remain committed to signing an agreement on the corridor soon”.
The outstanding issues came up during the technical-level talks on 4 September at Attari, India. The last round of official-level talks took place at Wagah on 14 July.
The Kartarpur corridor will create a direct link between the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district and the Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Narowal, Pakistan, which is the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak, who had established it in 1522.
India has told Pakistan that it wants its consular officials to be posted on both sides of the corridor, including within the premises of Darbar Sahib shrine in Kartarpur, which Islamabad has not yet agreed to.
Besides, both sides have not yet been able to agree on the issue of laws governing the corridor and movement of pilgrims. They have also not been able to reach an agreement as to which country’s laws will govern the entire stretch of the corridor.
New Delhi has also been told to reconsider its position on Pakistan wanting to charge a service fee, which Islamabad said would be used to offer world-class services to the pilgrims coming from India.
India’s Khalistan concern
‘Sikhs for Justice’, a human rights advocacy group that has been banned by India for being pro-Khalistan, has announced that it will reimburse the service fee to the pilgrims.
New Delhi has time and again raised with Islamabad the issue of the corridor being misused by Khalistani elements. Sources said the Khalistani issue continues to be a major concern for India.
Despite tensions over Kashmir, both India and Pakistan have decided to open the Kartarpur corridor in November this year. They have also set a deadline to sign the agreement on the corridor by the end of this month.
India has already earmarked investments to the tune of Rs 500 crore and Pakistan around Rs 100 crore.