Pakistan reopens Kartarpur Corridor next week, India seeks experts' view

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Pakistan on Saturday announced its readiness to reopen the Kartarpur Corridor to Indian pilgrims on June 29, though people familiar with developments said India will decide on the matter after consulting health authorities and other stakeholders.

The corridor that allows Indian pilgrims visa-free access to Durbar Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan’s Narowal district, where Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life, was closed on March 16 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tweeted on Saturday that Islamabad has conveyed to New Delhi it was ready to reopen the corridor on June 29, the death anniversary of Sikh leader Maharaja Ranjit Singh, as places of worship across the world were opening up.

As places of worship open up across the world, Pakistan prepares to reopen the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor for all Sikh pilgrims, conveying to the Indian side our readiness to reopen the corridor on 29 June 2020, the occasion of the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh.

— Shah Mahmood Qureshi (@SMQureshiPTI) June 27, 2020

A statement from the Foreign Office is Islamabad, which described the corridor as “a true symbol of peace and religious harmony”, too said Pakistan has informed the Indian side of its readiness to open the corridor on June 29.

The people cited above, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said cross-border travel continues to be temporarily suspended as part of measures to prevent and contain the spread of the Coronavirus, and the Indian side will decide on the matter in consultation with health authorities and other stakeholders.

However, one of the people noted that Pakistan is trying to “create a mirage of goodwill by proposing to reopen the Kartarpur Corridor on June 29 - at a short notice of just two days”.

The bilateral agreement on the corridor states India has to share information about pilgrims with the Pakistani side at least seven days before the date of travel, the person pointed out. “This would need India to open up the registration process well in advance,” the person added.

The people also pointed out that Pakistan has still not built a bridge on its side across the flood plains of the Ravi river despite having committed to do this in the bilateral agreement.

With the advent of monsoon, the Indian side will need to evaluate whether the movement of pilgrims is possible through the corridor in a safe and secure manner, the people added.

The Kartarpur Corridor, which links Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur to Durbar Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan, was opened on November 9 last year.

The Pakistani statement said necessary health precautions are being taken regarding the corridor and the Pakistani side has invited India to work out standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the reopening.

The statement also said the opening of the corridor on the eve of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak fulfilled a long-standing desire of the Sikh community and was appreciated by Sikhs across the world.

The Indian government last year agreed to the opening of the corridor despite security concerns and opposition to a service fee of $20 charged from every Indian pilgrim.

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