Days before the grand celebration of the 550th birth anniversary of the first Sikh guru Baba Nanak Dev, Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh sat down with India Today to talk about the Kartarpur corridor, his plan for the festivities and Pakistan’s part in them.
Speaking to India Today Group Editorial Director Raj Chengappa, Captain Amarinder Singh said the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor by Pakistan was a bittersweet moment for him.
“I look at it in two ways — As a Sikh, I am happy it happened, this will be like a pilgrimage back to history for me,” he said.
However, Captain Amarinder also expressed fear over what Pakistan’s intention may be behind finally paying heed to a 70-year-old demand. “I have certain apprehensions about Pakistan’s intentions behind this…it’s been 70 years, why didn’t they think of this before?”
The Punjab CM alleged that the Pakistan Army and the ISI were behind the opening of the Kartapur Corridor. He said this was evident from the fact that Pakistan Army chief General Bajwa had confirmed the plans to open the Kartarpur Corridor even before the new Imran Khan government officially announced it.
“I feel like this [opening of corridor] is an ISI operation and I say this because the day that Imran Khan was sworn in as Pakistan PM, Navjot Singh Sidhu was called. Before the swearing-in [Pakistan Army chief] General Bajwa told Sidhu you will be happy to know that we are opening corridor, and Imran Khan becomes PM later. The [Pakistan] army had already laid the ground for this and when they do it puts my antennae up,” Captain Amarinder Singh exclaimed.
On invite to Sidhu
Captain Amarinder also commented on Imran Khan’s invite to Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu to attend the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor.
The Punjab CM said Sidhu had been invited as he had said no to previous invites.
“I was invited last time, I said no. I made my position clear — till they don’t sort out problems with us and stop killing our men I will not go,” he said.
Captain Amarinder added that despite differences with Punjab opposition Akali Dal as well Navjot Sidhu, the entire community was going as part of one ‘jatha’ via the corridor on November 9.
“As far as I am concerned, we are all going in one group, even the Akalis,” he added.
He said that Sidhu should go as part of the all-party official delegation to Kartarpur Corridor, but he had already accepted Pakistan’s invite to go separately.
When asked about his party’s stand to the invite to Sidhu, the Punjab CM simply said that Sidhu had written a letter to him seeking permission which the Punjab administration had forwarded to the Ministry of External Affairs as this comes under their purview.
Sidhu had come under fire from the opposition after he hugged Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa during the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan in August last year.
The Kartarpur corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district in Punjab and facilitate the visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, which is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the Ravi river.
Kartarpur Sahib is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the Ravi river, about four kilometers from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine.
Pakistan is building the corridor from the Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, while the other part from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur up to the border is being built by India.