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Friday, July 19, 2024  
13 Muharram 1446  

India hints at closing Kartarpur corridor as tensions with Sikhs rise

External Affairs ministry seeks exemption of $20 fee for pilgrims
Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi addresses a weekly press briefing on November 09, 2023. Screengrab via X/@MEAIndia
Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi addresses a weekly press briefing on November 09, 2023. Screengrab via X/@MEAIndia

The Indian external affairs ministry has hinted at closing the Kartarpur Corridor – a religious corridor between Pakistan and India – as it reiterates demand for ending the $20 fee and questioned the low number of visitors.

“The Ministry of External Affairs has consistently taken up the concerns with Pakistan regarding the imposition of a $20 fee and the requirement of a mandatory passport for access to the Kartarpur Corridor,” spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a weekly press briefing on Thursday.

“To date, there has been no response from Pakistan on this matter.” India would persist in raising the issue with the relevant authorities, Bagchi added.

It merits here to mention that November 9 marked the fourth anniversary of the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor.

According to reports, it was agreed that India would allow as many as 5,000 pilgrims to visit Kartarpur Sahib every day, but the actual turnout has been averaging around 200 daily. There were plans that the expected flow of pilgrims would be doubled in the following years.

Former prime minister Imran Khan inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9 at a time when the community was celebrating the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.

Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara situated in Narowal – some 115 kilometers from Lahore – is one of the most revered temple for the Sikh community, as Baba Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life there.

The distance between the temple and Gurdaspur is just 3km but without a crossing, Sikh pilgrims from India must travel hundreds of kilometers, via Amritsar and Lahore, to reach it.

For up to 30 million Sikhs around the world, it is one of their holiest places. When Pakistan was carved out of colonial India at independence from Britain in 1947, Kartarpur ended up on the western side of the border — though most of the region’s Sikhs remained on the other side.

The Indian external affairs ministry statement comes as the tensions with the Sikh community rises after the killing of the community leader Hardeep Singh Nijar in Canada in June this year leading to a diplomatic spat between the two countries.

In September, India expelled a Canadian diplomat with five days’ notice to leave the country after Ottawa expelled the South Asian nation’s top intelligence agent and accused it of a role in the murder of a Sikh separatist leader.

Last month, India said its relationship with Canada is passing through a difficult phase and there had been “continued interference” by Canadian personnel in New Delhi’s internal affairs.

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