SOURCE: Hindustan Times
India on Saturday said it is yet to decide on opening its part of the Kartarpur Corridor, which allows Indian pilgrims visa-free access to Durbar Sahib gurdwara, following Pakistan’s decision to open its side of the corridor.
New Delhi also called on Islamabad to construct required infrastructure, including a bridge, for the safe movement of pilgrims over a stretch that gets waterlogged during the rainy season.
Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry issued a notification for reopening Kartarpur Corridor on Friday following an improvement in the Covid-19 situation. According to reports in the Pakistani media, the notification said Indian pilgrims would be allowed to visit the gurdwara from dawn to dusk.
Responding to queries from the media about Pakistan’s move, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said movement of pilgrims through the corridor was suspended because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“We remain in touch with all concerned authorities, including ministries of home affairs and health and family welfare. A decision on reopening of the corridor would be taken in accordance with the Covid protocol and easing of restrictions,” he said.
Srivastava noted that at the time of opening of the Kartarpur Corridor last year and in the bilateral agreement signed in October 2019, it was decided both sides would “establish requisite infrastructure, including construction of a bridge at Budhi Ravi Channel at the earliest, for safe and hassle-free movement of pilgrims”.
He said, “One year hence, Pakistan is yet to construct the bridge while it is ready at our end. A technical meeting with Pakistan was also facilitated and two teams met on August 27, 2020. There is, however, no progress on [the] part of Pakistan.”
The 4.7-km Kartarpur Corridor connects Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district with Durbar Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan’s Kartarpur. The gurdwara stands on the site where Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, spent the last years of his life.
India had gone ahead with the opening of the corridor last year to respect the sentiments of the Sikh community despite strong misgivings about several steps taken by the Pakistani side, including the imposition of a service fee of $20 on every pilgrim, and security concerns.
Following the closure of the corridor in March, Pakistan had offered to reopen it in June. Pakistan has also opened its section of the corridor on the occasion of some Sikh festivals.