A report in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper hinted on Friday that Pakistan had decided to add a religious tourism category to the online visa system for the Sikh pilgrims who want to visit the Darbara Sahib Gurudwara in Kartarpur. Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior took this decision. Now, two separate categories of visa applications would be entertained by the Ministry. The first one would pertain to Sikh pilgrims holding a residence permit from another country with an Indian passport. On the other hand, the second category would include Sikh pilgrims of Indian origin living anywhere in the world.
All visa applications for both categories of Kartarpur pilgrimages would be processed within 7-10 days. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs would collaborate with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to come up with a standard operating procedure for visas under the religious tourism category. The former would officially request the Cabinet of Pakistan to bring an amendment in the existing policy in order to incorporate the new changes.
On Wednesday, the talks between India and Pakistan to finalize an agreement on the Kartarpur corridor failed. However, according to the Ministry of External Affairs, the two countries agreed to facilitate the visa-free travel of 5,000 Indian pilgrims throughout the year.
The Kartarpur corridor is a proposed route linking Darbara Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan’s Kartarpur to Dera Babar Nanak Shrine in Gurdaspur, India. The former is the resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikh religion. While the foundation stone for the corridor was laid on both sides of the border in late 2018 keeping in mind the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November 2020, the talks between the two countries have been stuck on multiple issues. The latest roadblock has been Pakistan’s insistence on charging a fee of $20 per every pilgrim.
Had the privilege of laying the Foundation Stone for the historic Kartarpur Sahib Corridor along with Vice President @MVenkaiahNaidu ji. With the blessings of Waheguru ji, look forward to our Jathas going to Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara next year. #KartarpurCorridor pic.twitter.com/a1xPyCX7TF— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) November 26, 2018
(With PTI inputs)