Kartarpur pilgrims need passports, OCI cards

Hard at work: Workers shine a floor at the shrine of Baba Guru Nanak Dev at the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Indian passports and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards will be necessary for pilgrims visiting the Kartarpur Sahib shrine for the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the External Affairs Ministry said on Thursday.

The statement sought to clarify the confusion that had arisen after the spokesperson of the Pakistan Armed Forces had contradicted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement waiving the need for passports for Indian Sikh pilgrim.

On November 1, Mr. Khan declared in a social media message that he had waived the requirement of carrying Indian passports for the Sikh pilgrims. “Just a valid ID,” the Pakistan PM said, would be sufficient for the Sikhs to visit Kartarpur Sahib. This was, however, contradicted by the spokesperson of Pakistan Armed Forces, Major General Asif Ghafoor, earlier this week. In a TV interview on Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Ghafoor said the entry of Indian pilgrims would be “legal and based on passports”.

“The reports from Pakistan are conflicting. Some saying (passports are) needed and some saying the opposite. As of now, we have an MoU and that has not been changed and that MoU cannot be changed unilaterally by Pakistan. According to that document, there is a need for passports (for Indian citizens) and persons of Indian origin need to carry OCI cards,” Ministry MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. He said the same documents would be required for subsequent travels by pilgrims after the November festivities.

‘India refused offer’

However, following the Indian statement, the spokesperson for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Faisal, said in a social media post: “As a special gesture, Pakistan announced concessions on the auspicious occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak to facilitate pilgrims. This has been refused by India.”

In a follow-up statement, Dr. Faisal said not availing the passport-free travel offer from Pakistan was “India's choice” and he accused the Indian government of disregarding Sikh sentiments.

India and Pakistan signed an agreement on October 24 laying down the rules to be followed during the celebrations at Kartarpur that are expected to see thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.

Mr. Kumar said that Pakistan had maintained silence about the list of delegates that India had submitted under the agreement.

“Pakistan is supposed to confirm the final list of visitors at least 4 days before the visit. We are very close now to the date of journey. So we presume that all the names that we shared with the Pakistani side — they stand confirmed. We have accordingly asked all the people who are part of the inaugural jatha (group of pilgrims) to prepare for the journey,” he added.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2022 7:01:18 AM |

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