New Delhi: After Pakistan announced that the Kartarpur corridor was now open, India said on Saturday that it will only take a decision on starting the visa-free pilgrimage after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and in line with health protocols.
On Friday, Pakistan’s ministry of religious affairs had issued a notification that the corridor would be opened with immediate effect. The notification stated that Indian visitors will be allowed to travel daily from dawn to dusk as per bilateral protocol, after complying with precautionary measures on COVID-19.
The Kartarpur corridor, which allows for visitors from India to cross the border without a visa to pay obeisance at Gurudwara Darbar Sahib, had been closed by India since March 15 as part of measures to stop the spread of coronavirus pandemic. It had inaugurated in November 2019 to mark 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev.
Following the Pakistan government’s announcement, India made it clear that it would not be sending pilgrims across the border anytime soon.
“As you are aware, movement was suspended in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak. We remain in touch with all concerned authorities including Ministries of Home Affairs and Health & Family Welfare. A decision on re-opening of the corridor would be taken in accordance with the Covid Protocol and easing of restrictions,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.
He also accused Pakistan of keeping its side of the bargain in terms of border infrastructure. The key bone of contention is a proper bridge across the Budd Ravi Channel whose water level rises alarmingly during the monsoons.
Srivastava stated that Pakistan had committed to build the bridge in the bilateral agreement signed in October 2019. “One year hence, Pakistan is yet to construct the bridge while it is ready at our end,” he said.
On August 27, technical teams from the two countries had met to discuss the matter. “There is, however, no progress on part of Pakistan.”
Earlier in June, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had announced that the corridor would be open on the occasion of the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Indian official sources had accused Pakistan of creating a “mirage of goodwill” and violating the 2019 bilateral agreement.