The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday asked Pakistan to remove an objectionable welcome video created for pilgrims visiting a Sikh shrine in Kartarpur in which Khalistani separatist leaders, including Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, are seen.
The video released by the Pakistani government shows a poster with the images of three Khalistani separatist leaders of the early 1980s in the background – Bhindranwale, Major General Shabeg Singh and Amrik Singh Khalsa. The poster has the message “Khalistan 2020”, a reference to a referendum planned by separatists on the question of a separate Sikh homeland. Sikhs for Justice, a United States-based separatist group leading the campaign, was banned by India in July.
“We condemn Pakistan’s attempt to undermine the spirit under which the pilgrimage is supposed to be undertaken,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar. “We have lodged a strong protest.”
Kumar said India had been repeatedly assured by Pakistan during discussions that anti-India propaganda would not be allowed during the pilgrimage and the inauguration event. “We demand that they remove the objectionable video and printed material which is being circulated,” he added.
India also said it would stick to the modalities finalised in the agreement between New Delhi and Islamabad on the project, PTI reported. Kumar pointed out that conflicting reports were coming from Pakistan about whether Indian pilgrims would need to carry their passport while visiting the shrine. “Sometimes they [Islamabad] say passport is needed and sometimes they say it is not required,” said the ministry official. “As of now, there is a bilateral agreement which specified required documents.” While Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had tweeted that no passport would be needed, he was contradicted by the Army, which stressed the necessity of the document. The agreement too mentions that a passport is necessary.
The Ministry of External Affairs said Pakistan was yet to confirm the list of Indian dignitaries who will attend the Kartarpur opening ceremony on the Pakistani side on Saturday. New Delhi had assumed that the names of all the dignitaries had been approved, Kumar added.
According to the final agreement, at least 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit the gurdwara, where Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev was laid to rest, every day without visa. They will visit in the morning and will have to return the same evening. An online application system for pilgrims is operational at http://prakashpurb550.mha.gov.in/kpr. Pilgrims will be allowed to carry a maximum of Rs 11,000 and seven-kg of luggage. They will not be allowed to go beyond the shrine.
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