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India Wants No Waivers

by Newsweek Pakistan

Courtesy Pakistan Foreign Office

Pakistan’s foreign office says New Delhi has rejected Islamabad’s offer of concessions for Kartarpur Corridor pilgrims

New Delhi has rejected the special concessions Islamabad had offered to Sikh pilgrims traveling to the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor, Pakistan’s Foreign Office announced on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced on Twitter that Indian pilgrims visiting the Baba Guru Nanak shrine for the 550th anniversary, on Nov. 9 and 12, would not need to register 10 days in advance; would not require passports; and would not have to pay $20 service charges. These waivers were also passed by a meeting of the federal cabinet, after which they were formally conveyed to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

“As a special gesture, #Pakistan announced concessions on the auspicious occasion of 550th Birth Anniversary of #BabaGuruNanak to facilitate pilgrims. This has been REFUSED by #India in blatant disregard of Sikh sentiments,” Foreign Office spokesman Dr. Mohammad Faisal posted on Twitter. “If India does not wish to avail these facilitative measures for pilgrims, it is India’s choice. India is creating confusion to confuse,” he added.

New Delhi’s Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday dismissed these waivers during a conversation with Indian media. Spokesman Raveesh Kumar said that the Kartarpur Corridor would operate strictly in accordance with the previously signed bilateral agreement. “Sometimes they say passport is needed, other times it is not needed. We think there are differences between their Foreign Office and other agencies. We have a memorandum of understanding, it hasn’t been changed and as per it passport is needed.”

Kumar was likely referring to a broadcast interview of Pakistan Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor. In it, he appeared to contradict the P.M.’s statement by saying a passport-based identity system would be required. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government has since clarified that P.M. Khan only meant no passport would be required during the inauguration days—similar to the other waivers. Faisal told a media briefing that the passport waiver would only extend for a year, adding that the ISPR statement was perfectly in line with the position of the Foreign Office.

The government has announced that it is expecting around 10,000 Sikh pilgrims to visit the Baba Guru Nanak shrine at the inauguration on Nov. 9, which will include visitors who avail the Kartarpur Corridor; those who travel via Wagah border; and those who come from the West.

Faisal told the press briefing that Pakistan remained committed to dialogue and would not hesitate to restore ties with India. However, he said, New Delhi’s “aggressive” actions risked endangering regional peace and stability, specifically pointing to the revocation of India-held Kashmir’s autonomy on Aug. 5, and an ongoing lockdown in the region.

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