New Delhi: Hours after Pakistan military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said that Indian Sikh pilgrims visiting the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib will need passport to use the Corridor, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on Thursday said the news reports surfacing from Pakistani side are conflicting as sometimes they say passport is needed and other time they say it is not needed.
He went on to say that probably there are differences between their Foreign Office and other agencies. He also said that there is one MoU as per which a passport is needed for pilgrims visiting the holy shrine.
“Reports coming in from Pak are conflicting, sometimes they say passport is needed and other times that it isn’t. We think there are differences between their Foreign Office and other agencies. We have an MoU, it hasn’t been changed, and as per it passport is needed,” MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
Raveesh Kumar said that the bilateral agreement, which was signed last month, clearly specifies what documents pilgrims need to carry with them, and no change to the already-signed MoU can be done unilaterally.
“We are aware that there is bilateral document which has been signed between India and Pakistan which clearly specifies the document to be carried by the pilgrims. Any amendment to the existing MoU cannot be done unilaterally as it requires consent of both the parties,’ Kumar further added.
The statement from the Indian side comes as Pakistan military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor earlier in the day in a tweet said that Indian Sikh pilgrims willing to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib will need a passport to use the Corridor. His statement comes days after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Indian devotees would only need a valid ID to visit the Gurdwara, not a passport.
Talking about Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu’s visit to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib along with the first batch of pilgrims, Raveesh Kumar said that the inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor is a historic event and it is not important to highlight any one individual.
The development comes as Sidhu has once again written a letter to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, seeking permission to attend Kartarpur Corridor inauguration.”Despite repeated reminders, you haven’t responded to whether or not the government has granted me permission to go to Pakistan for the inauguration,” his letter to the EAM stated.
Talking about the security arrangement for the first batch of pilgrims, Raveesh Kumar said the Indian side has been sensitizing the neighbouring country about the security arrangement of the pilgrims.
“On security and protocol arrangements, we’ve been sensitising Pakistan. I think it’s natural for the advanced team to visit a country before a high-dignitary visit takes place. We’ve not heard anything from Pakistan so far. We’ve requested them for security and medical arrangements for dignitaries,” he added.
Kumar said that Indian side has repeatedly been assured by Pakistani side that they will not allow any anti-India elements and propaganda during the pilgrimage and the inaugural event. “We demand that they remove the objectionable video and printed material which is being circulated,” he added.
Talking about Khalistani separatist leader Jarnail Bhindranwale being featured in Pakistan Government’s official video on Kartarpur Corridor, Kumar said that India condemns such attempts by Pakistan. “We condemn Pakistan’s attempt to undermine the spirit under which the pilgrimage is supposed to be undertaken. We have lodged a strong protest,” he added.