“I would like to thank the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan Niazi for respecting the sentiments of India,” Modi said, laying an emphasis on the name ‘Niazi’.
The reference was to A.A.K. Niazi, the Pashtun Pakistani Army general and Governor of East Pakistan who signed the instrument of surrender in 1971 marking India’s victory in the war and leading to the formation of Bangladesh. This moment was captured in a famous photograph and secured his name for posterity.
In the 13-day event known as the Bangladesh Liberation War, India fought to free East Pakistan. Nearly 3,800 soldiers from both countries lost their lives in the war.
Niazi was taken prisoner of war by India and repatriated to Pakistan in 1975. Upon return, his three-star rank was eventually reduced to Major-General. He was dismissed from service in July that year.
In 1982, he was summoned by the War Enquiry Commission about human rights violations and the secession of East Pakistan. Although he wasn’t court martialed, he was indicted for the war crimes that had taken place in East Pakistan.
PM Khan hails from the same Pashtun tribe as Niazi, but is not known to use his full name.
The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, which will allow Indian pilgrims to cross over to Pakistan without a visa, comes amid frayed relations between India and Pakistan — most recently over the Pulwama terror attack on 14 February, and then the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir on 5 August.
While both countries were committed to opening the corridor, they were locked in a dispute until the last day before its opening over the terms of pilgrims carrying passports.
Despite the subtle jab, PM Modi went on to say the corridor would bring “immense happiness” to Indians.
“The opening of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor before the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devi Ji has brought us immense happiness,” Modi said, adding that Guru Nanak was an inspiration for all.
The corridor will be opened for over 500 pilgrims who will be the first to trek to the historic Darbar Sahib gurudwara in Pakistan. It is a 4-km stretch that connects the Darbar Sahib gurudwara with the Dera Baba Nanak Sahib gurudwara in India’s Punjab.
Also read: Kartarpur Corridor opens today — a timeline