Kartarpur Corridor: Pakistan takes U-turn, says Sikhs will need passports
Days after Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said Sikh pilgrims will not require passports for visiting Kartarpur Gurudwara, the "top brass" of the country "undid" his order. The Army said on Wednesday that passports are mandatory. These comments came after New Delhi asked Islamabad to clarify what's needed. This development only confirms who handles the reins of Pakistan. Here are more details.
The Kartarpur Corridor will facilitate Indian Sikhs' visit to the shrine, where Guru Nanak Dev spent his last days. Khan will inaugurate the Corridor on November 8, days before the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev on November 12. To note, Pakistan has levied a $20 fee on Indian devotees, saying the money will be spent on the Corridor's "maintenance".
Earlier this week, Khan announced that Indians can visit the Gurudwara carrying just a valid ID proof. He also said the fee will not be charged on November 8 and 12. Dismissing his statement, Director-General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Asif Ghafoor, said, "As we have a security link, the entry would be a legal one under a permit on a passport-based identity."
It's left to be seen how this new turn affects sour ties between India and Pakistan. Yesterday, New Delhi fumed after Pakistan gave space to posters of three slain Khalistani leaders, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Maj Gen Shabeg Singh, and Amrik Singh Khalsa, in its video about Kartarpur. All three were killed in 1984's Operation Bluestar when the Indian Army reclaimed Golden Temple from terrorists.
Reacting strongly at the clip, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said, "All this is what I have been warning about since day one, that Pakistan has a hidden agenda here." There's a strong concern that Pakistan might use Kartarpur Corridor to bolster Khalistani sentiments in Punjab, which have been subdued for years now. Intel agencies are keeping a strong vigil on Pakistan's action.
In the controversial clip, Khan spoke about religious tolerance, hinting that this channel can be used to start afresh. But New Delhi believes a new chapter of bilateral ties will begin only if Pakistan behaves like a "normal country". "It serves a strategic purpose for having said that, we also see it as a corridor of peace," a highly-placed source told TOI.