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Kartarpur corridor: India aware of Pakistan ‘motive’

Sikh pilgrims from different countries visit the shrine of Guru Nanak Dev at the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in the Pakistani town of Kartarpur, near the Indian border on November 6, 2019.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Pakistan’s military has a “strategic purpose” in opening up the Kartarpur corridor, and India is wary of its “ulterior motive” to fan Sikh separatism in Punjab, said government sources here on Wednesday, but added that the Modi government is still committed to going ahead with the project, due to be inaugurated on Saturday.

“There is a duality in the corridor,” said an official. “As conceived, the corridor has a strategic purpose for Pakistan …[but] India has walked into this with its eyes open, and as a democratic government recognised the wishes of the Sikh community.” The official also accused Pakistan’s military of trying to “promote separatist forces in Punjab and to drive a wedge between Sikhs and Hindus” through the corridor.

On Wednesday, India objected to photographs of former Sikh separatist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and other “terrorists from the 1980s” as well as pictures of posters calling for a “Referendum 2020”, in a promotional video released by the Pakistan Information Department. The objectionable references were deleted from the version of the video tweeted out by the Pakistan government official handle, however.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh called the video a vindication of his earlier warnings to the central government.

"Since day one, I have been warning about Pakistan's hidden agenda," Mr. Singh told reporters,"On one side, they (Pakistan) show love... but on the other side, they may try to create trouble. We have to be very careful," he said.

Watch | Posters of Navjot Sidhu, Imran Khan put up in Amritsar to thank them for Kartapur corridor
 

The government said it has has raised specific concerns with the Pakistani government over the threat to Indian dignitaries who will visit, including former PM Manmohan Singh and the Punjab CM, from Pakistan-based Sikh terror groups including Babbar Khalsa and Khalistan Liberation Force. They also warned about the presence of unvetted individuals from other countries who might be separatists trying to contact Indian pilgrims.

Pakistani TV channels reported that PM Imran Khan was exempting all pilgrims travelling for the inauguration from the Passport-only identification requirement, not just Sikhs. However, officials pointed out that the protocol between the two countries, that mandated passports, is the only official document at present. “We cannot keep changing arrangements on the basis of tweets from the Pakistan PM or other officials,” said a source.

With just two days to go for the inauguration of the pilgrim corridor from the Indian border into Pakistan, officials say they are disappointed that no advance team from India has been given permission to look over the arrangements at the Kartarpur Gurudwara site, although a team from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad was allowed to tour the facilities on Wednesday.

The sources said the lack of bonhomie between the two governments just ahead of the opening of the Kartarpur corridor stemmed from India’s mistrust of the Pakistani military establishment’s alacrity with establishing the corridor, and pointed out that the proposal for the project came from the Army Chief General Bajwa at PM Imran Khan’s swearing in August 2018, proved that this was an already planned military, not civilian project.

 

“Pakistan has carried out the construction of the Kartarpur corridor with speed and military zeal. That the corridor has survived is testimony to the fact that there are forces beyond the civilian govt that are behind it,” one source added.

When asked if, given all the risks and worries arising from the corridor, the government regretted its decision to accept Pakistan’s officer, however, the sources categorically denied having any second thoughts.

“Our security establishment is aware of the risks and will make no compromise. Despite setbacks [in the relationship] we have taken the talks on Kartarpur forward,” the sources replied.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2020 9:05:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kartarpur-corridor-india-aware-of-pakistan-motive/article29902802.ece

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