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Politicking over Kartarpur Corridor: India Accuses Pakistan of “Making Business out of Religion”

Indian Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur has accused the Imran Khan-led government of using the Kartarpur Corridor initiative for reaping profits under the garb of promoting religious tourism. However, Pakistan’s proposal of charging a nominal entry fee remains justified, given all the facilities provided to the Sikh pilgrims pouring in from India.

Kartarpur

Indian Union Minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, on Saturday, accused Pakistan of “making a business out of faith” for charging US $20 as service charges for the Indian Sikh pilgrims arriving to visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara.

Indian Union Minister Badal termed the US $20 service charges as “atrocious” and attacked the country for turning faith into a commercial activity. She did neglected to mention that Pakistan also intends to provide suitable accommodation and other services to the 5000 Sikh pilgrims arriving in the country each day.

Maligning Pakistan for Service Charges

Harsimrat Kaur Badal said, “The $20 fee each charged by Pak for Kartarpur Sahib darshan is atrocious. How will a poor devotee pay this amount?”

Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced that as the largest Gurdwara in the world, the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara will emerge as a major religious hub for the Sikh community

The Indian Minister added, “Pakistan has made a business out of faith. Imran Khan’s statement that this fee will boost Pak’s economy & result in earning foreign exchange is highly shameful.”

Earlier on Friday, Kaur Badal had make similar remarks protesting the $20 entry fee. Taking to twitter, she said, “It is a shame that Pak has decided to put profit before piety & refuses to take back $20 fee to be charged from each pilgrim assessing the Kartarpur Corridor.”

“This is disrespect to sentiments of Sikh Sangat. I join the Panth in demand this jaziya tax be withdrawn immediately.”

Pakistan had proposed a $20 entry fee for Sikh pilgrims traveling through the visa-free Kartarpur Corridor, which is all set to be inaugurated on November 9, days ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.

Pakistan had dispatched the final draft of the proposed bilateral agreement on the Kartarpur Corridor to New Delhi, which has been constructed to allow Indian Sikh pilgrims visa-free access to one of the most sacred religious sites in Sikhism.

Read more: Pakistan set to complete Kartarpur Corridor despite India’s IOK move

On Thursday, India demanded Pakistan to waive off the proposed $20 entry fee. The Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar, quoted by the Hindustan Times, said, “After several rounds of discussion with Pakistan, we have reached an agreement on all other issues, except the matter of service fee. Pakistan insists on levying a fee of $20 on all pilgrims.”

Kumar added, “We have urged Pakistan not to do so in the interests of devotees, and also because this is people-to-people initiative. We hope that the agreement can be concluded and signed in time for the great event.”

Service Charges Unjustified?

Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced that as the largest Gurdwara in the world, the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara will emerge as a “major religious hub for the Sikh community. He expressed hope that the religious monument will be visited by Sikhs from all across the world.

The Premier had also said that the Kartarpur Corridor would not only benefit the local economy, but it would also benefit foreign exchange earnings, alongside creating jobs in the travel, hospitality and other industries.

Pakistan has proposed an entry fee of $20 for the Indian Sikh pilgrims coming to the Kartarpur Corridor, and in exchange, they have been provided roadways, an 800-metre bridge to cross the River Ravi, an immigration office and accommodation.

Read more: Pakistan’s Peace Efforts: Manmohan Singh to attend Inauguration Ceremony at Kartarpur

In response to Indian Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s tweets, many Pakistanis came forward to rationalize the need for charging a nominal $20 entry fee, given the expenditures the country has incurred to make the corridor functional for the Sikh pilgrims, and ensure adequate facilities.

Pakistanis attempted to explain that the country will bear the costs of police arrangements, fencing, check posts, security cameras, accommodation, food and a variety of other facilities that will ensure the safety and comfort of the Sikh pilgrims.

Pakistan has succeeded in achieving Prime Minister Imran Khan’s goal of completing the Kartarpur Corridor within 11 months, while many believed that the project would take years to complete.

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