India has not received any official communication from Pakistan that it is willing to consider its request to open the Kartarpur Sahib corridor for Sikh pilgrims. The Union External Affairs Ministry clarified on Thursday after Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu claimed that Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had told him during his visit to Islamabad last month that Pakistan proposed to open the corridor to the holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar noted that there was a 1974 protocol between India and Pakistan on visits to religious shrines. “Kartarpur Sahib does not form part of this list,” he added.
During the visit of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Lahore in 1999, the issue was raised to consider a visa-free visit to the shrine but there was no response from the Pakistani side.
The then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on a request from Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, announced on the eve of 400th anniversary of ‘Prakash Utsav’ on 1 September, 2004 at Amritsar the provision of corridor to Kartarpur Sahib.
Following this, on 4 September 2004, during the Foreign Secretary level talks, India requested that Kartarpur Sahib be included in the list under the protocol. This was not agreed to by the Pakistani side. In 2005, Pakistan agreed to allow visit to three shrines with visas, including to Kartarpur but did not include it in the protocol.
In 2008, the then External Affairs Minister had raised the issue of Kartarpur Sahib corridor with the then Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Kureshi. However, there has not been any official response from the Pakistani side since then.
The spokesperson said all political parties have taken up this matter with centre. Recently Union Minister and Akail Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal also wrote to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on this matter to which Swaraj replied that she would raise this issue with the Pakistan Government.
‘’Even now, we have not received any official communication that the Pakistani Government is willing to consider this matter. The External Affairs Minister will, therefore, raise this issue in her meeting with the Pakistani Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly,’’ he said.