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As Sikh Pilgrims Cheer Nod for Kartarpur Corridor, India and Pakistan Battle Over Credit

Sources said India had made the ‘first move’ which was immediately followed up by a communication to the Pakistan High Commission asking the Imran Khan government to ‘recognise the sentiments of the Sikh community’.

Maha Siddiqui | CNN-News18

Updated:November 22, 2018, 9:58 PM IST
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As Sikh Pilgrims Cheer Nod for Kartarpur Corridor, India and Pakistan Battle Over Credit
The issue of Kartarpur Sahib came into focus after Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu visited Pakistan in August to attend the oath-taking ceremony of his cricketer-turned-politician friend Imran Khan as prime minister of that country. (Image: YouTube)
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New Delhi: There was news to cheer for the Sikh community as it gets ready to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. A day ahead of Guru Purab, the long standing demand for a dedicated Kartarpur corridor for pilgrims seemed to be taking shape but with it swiftly came the claim for credit, though subtly.

After a cabinet meeting on Thursday, India announced that it would build and develop the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur to the International Border. India urged Pakistan to ‘develop a corridor with suitable facilities in their territory as well’.

Sources said India had made the ‘first move’ which was immediately followed up by a communication to the Pakistan High Commission asking the Imran Khan government to ‘recognise the sentiments of the Sikh community’.

However, Pakistan’s I&B Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain tweeted saying, “Indian Cabinet endorsement of Pakistan’s proposition on #KartarPurBorderOpening is victory of peace lobby in both countries.” When CNN-News 18 spoke exclusively to the minister in the afternoon, he said, “This proposal was initiated by Pakistan.” But in response to a specific query on when this proposal was made to India, he said, “I don’t want to get into this. It becomes more of an ego thing. But if you remember it was the Pakistan Army Chief who spoke about the opening of the Kartarpur border for the first time. It’s a matter of record.”

Fawad’s ambiguous response perhaps referred to the information carried by Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu that the reason for his much criticised hug to Pakistan General Qamar Bajwa at the swearing-in of Imran Khan was a reaction to the disclosure that Pakistan would soon operationalise the Kartarpur corridor. There were also reports in Pakistani media on Wednesday that an announcement was expected soon.

“Any suggestion that the corridor or the celebrations are being planned as a response to a Pakistani proposal is not only preposterous, but hurtful to the sentiments of the Sikh community,” a source not wishing to be named told CNN-News18.

Sources also said that the cabinet passed the resolution on the Kartarpur Corridor project after many weeks of “internal consultations and preparation within the Government”. The Cabinet, they added, usually meets on Wednesday, but due to a holiday it met on Thursday and approved the resolution.

India has expressed the desire that this corridor should be operational all year long and not just on special occasions. India has also said there should be no restriction on the number of pilgrims and consular access should be readily granted.

This comes in the backdrop of reports that Indian officials of the High Commission were stopped from meeting Sikh pilgrims at Nankana Sahib on Wednesday evening and Gurudwara Sachcha Sauda on Thursday morning.

Pakistan issued a statement on Tuesday saying as a “special gesture” this year they had gone well beyond the mutually agreed number of 3000 pilgrims for Guru Purab celebrations to issuing 3800 visas to Indian Sikh pilgrims.

Pilgrims from both sides move as per the 1974 Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines. There are 15 shrines which are part of this protocol but Kartarpur Sahib is not part of this list. In 2004, India had proposed at the Foreign Secretary level talks that the shrine should be included under the protocol but Pakistan had not agreed. Though in 2005, Pakistan agreed to allow visits to three more shrines with visa, including Kartarpur Sahib, but yet it was not made part of the protocol.

In September this year, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said that in 1999 when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee went to Lahore he asked Pakistan to consider a visa free visit to Kartarpur Sahib but there was no response from the Pakistani side. He said, it was former PM Dr Manmohan Singh who in 2004, on the eve of the 400th anniversary of Prakash Utsav, had outlined the provision of corridor to Kartarpur Sahib.




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| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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