India on Thursday chided Pakistan for creating confusion over the formal inauguration of the Kartarpur Saheb Corridor while making it clear that the pilgrimage beginning on Saturday should in no way be construed as a precursor to the formal resumption of talks between the two countries.
At a media briefing here, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar charged the Pakistani establishment with making contradictory statements on whether the pilgrims would require to carry their passports for visiting the Darbar Saheb Gurdwara at Kartarpur and whether they would have to pay a service fee of $20. In this connection, he drew attention to the statement of the civilian administration in Pakistan that there was no need for the pilgrims to carry their passports even as the Army spokesman stated that passport was a mandatory requirement for all pilgrims.
“The two countries have signed an MoU and any amendment to a bilateral document can’t be done unilaterally by either side,’’ the spokesperson said. He said India has advised all pilgrims in the first official ‘jatha’, numbering about 600 people, to carry their passports for the pilgrimage.
He also pointed out that India has so far not received any confirmation from Pakistan on the list of the first official ‘jatha’ communicated to Islamabad last week. New Delhi was, therefore, going by the assumption that the list has the approval of the Pakistan Government. All those figuring in the list have been asked to be prepared to undertake the pilgrimage. The list includes the names of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri and several MPs and MLAs from Punjab.
The spokesperson said India has also asked Pakistan to ensure the safety and security of the official ‘jatha’ since it included a number of prominent dignitaries. ‘’We have been sensitising them (Pakistan) on the need for proper mechanism to ensure security of the pilgrims so that there is no slip up,’’ he added.
The spokesperson said India wanted to send an advance team to Pakistan to oversee the security arrangements. However, Pakistan has not so far agreed to it. ‘’We have again requested them to allow an advance team to oversee security and medical arrangements.’’
On the controversial Pakistani video on the Kartarpur Saheb Corridor in which ‘Khalistani’ terrorists like Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale also figure, the spokesperson said India has lodged a strong protest with Islamabad. ‘’We condemn Pakistan’s attempt to undermine the spirit of the initiative,’’ he added.
Asked if the Kartarpur initiative could lead to the formal resumption of talks between the two countries, the spokesperson shot back, “We have never said the Kartarpur Corridor is a precondition (for talks). It should not be linked to bilateral mechanisms.’’ Pakistan, he said, must take credible and verifiable action against terrorism emanating from its soil before India could consider talks.