Kartarpur pact to be inked on ‘zero line’, India and Pak to not cross border

India and Pakistan will sign an agreement on October 24 to operationalise the Kartarpur Corridor to allow Indian pilgrims to visit a gurdwara built at the site where Guru Nanak spent the final years of his life, capping protracted negotiations on the issue.

People familiar with developments said the agreement will be inked by officials at the “zero line” on the border – an indication that both sides aren’t keen on holding a formal ceremony with the attendant protocols.

India had on Monday proposed October 23 as the date for signing the pact but the event was deferred by a day because of “administrative issues” on the Pakistani side, the people cited above said. The Indian side is expected to be represented by SCL Das, joint secretary (internal security) in the home ministry, and the Pakistani side by Mohammad Faisal, director general (South Asia) in the Foreign Office.

There will not be any joint event by the two sides to mark the opening of the corridor and no senior leader or official from either side will cross the border for events marking the occasion, the people said.

India is going ahead with signing the agreement despite misgivings over a $20 service fee levied by Pakistan on every pilgrim. On Monday, the external affairs ministry reiterated its call for the waiver of the fee, which Pakistan says is necessary to pay for expenditure on infrastructure and operating costs.

Officials of the two sides held three rounds of talks this year to address differences on the project, including the service fee, the timing for the corridor and the inclusion of pro-Khalistani elements in the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, the body that will facilitate the pilgrims.

All the differences were resolved and the service fee remained the only sticking point, the people said.

Both countries are expected to hold events on November 9 to mark the opening of their sections of the corridor, which will link Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur to Darbar Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan’s Kartarpur, days ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion.

The people said the Union home ministry is now the nodal body in India for the corridor as the negotiations have been concluded, and it will supervise all arrangements and launch a website for the online registration of pilgrims.