New Delhi: Talks on the Kartarpur Corridor, which will be opened on 9 November, have become successful because the real initiative was taken by the Pakistani Army and not Prime Minister Imran Khan, a top government official said Wednesday.
“The opening of the corridor was announced at the inauguration of Prime Minister Imran Khan (referring to his swearing-in ceremony) last year in August, which should make it clear that it predates Imran Khan. So while Prime Minister Imran Khan is being shown as the face of this initiative, it is really an initiative that came from the Pakistan Army…This is a project pushed and promoted by the Pakistan Army,” the official said.
The official added India had been pushing for the project since 1999, when former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had travelled to Pakistan and put the proposal before his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
But it is only now, the official added, that Pakistan showed “unusual alacrity” on the proposal made by India 20 years ago.
“Within just 11 to 12 months, it was taken over with military zeal,” the official said, adding that the development of the infrastructure around Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur village has been done in “record time with a great deal of enthusiasm”.
The Kartarpur Corridor will connect the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.
All the work in building the connecting roads, passenger terminal and other facilities were done by Frontier Works Organisation, which is a Pakistani military engineering organisation.
“The Kartarpur discussion has survived at least two bilateral crises. We had Pulwama in February and we continued to have this conversation (on Kartarpur) despite the events and in August, we had Article 370 and Pakistan escalated the rhetoric on everything else but the Kartarpur Corridor project survived. That is a testimony to the fact that powers larger than the democratic or civil leadership of Pakistan have been pushing it,” the official added.
The official also said that Pakistan’s “underlying strategy” was clear since the beginning of the project from the statements given out by their Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who had said last year that Khan had bowled a “googly over Kartarpur”.
“The real purpose was clear at times like these. Their underlying strategic move has been to build leverage and possibly promote a separatist movement in Punjab to leverage the issue of Khalistan and leverage the 2020 referendum,” the official added.
‘Referendum 2020’ is being promoted by separatist Sikhs for the creation of Khalistan.
Indian officials also expressed concern over Khalistani leaders such as Major General Shabeg Singh, Amrik Singh Khalsa and Jarnail Singh Bhrindranwale being shown on a poster in the official video on the Kartarpur Corridor.
While the Pakistani government has removed the images from the official video that was released on Twitter, they continue to be featured in the video uploaded on Pakistani government’s official channel on YouTube.
Manmohan Singh part of 550 VVIPs to travel via corridor
India has handed over to Pakistan a list of 550 Indian VVIPs, who will be travelling through the corridor on 9 November. The VVIPs include former PM Manmohan Singh, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and former Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, among others, sources said.
According to another official, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu is not a part of this delegation as he has been specially invited by PM Khan for the inauguration.
Sources said any leader who will not be going as part of the delegation will require “political clearance” from the government, according to protocol.
Meanwhile, hoardings of Khan and Sidhu have come up in Amritsar, hailing them as “real heroes” for making the Kartarpur project a reality.
Passport as part of travel document
Issues such as what will be considered a travel document have also come up as a stumbling block before both countries.
Indian officials said Pakistan has still not confirmed whether it will consider the Indian passport as the main document to travel through the corridor. According to the agreement, India has said that only the passport has to be considered as the travel document.
“If they have some other demands, they will have to say it now. It is still not clear whether they will consider passport as the main document for travelling across the corridor. We have clearly said in the agreement that only passport has to be considered, else the agreement has to be amended,” said a third official.