The police chief of Punjab has raised questions about the Kartarpur Corridor between India and Pakistan, saying it poses security problems, The Indian Express reported on Saturday. Dinkar Gupta made the comment at an event hosted by the newspaper in Panchkula city on Wednesday.
“Kartarpur offers a potential threat,” Gupta said, adding there were reasons why the government chose not to throw open the corridor all these years. “You send somebody in the morning as an ordinary chap and by evening he comes back as trained terrorist. You are there for six hours, you can be taken to a firing range, you can be taught to make an [improvised explosive device].”
The Kartarpur Corridor connects the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Narowal district, which is believed to be the final resting place of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev. The corridor was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Indian side and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan across the border on November 9.
Gupta said all security concerns were shelved for the sake of Sikh devotees. “I was in the Intelligence Bureau for eight years,” he added. “The feeling was that it [the corridor] will be a huge security challenge. But after that as the community wanted it, the diaspora wanted it, it was decided why cannot this dream be realised. So, all those security concerns were put on the back-burner.”
Gupta said the matter was also discussed at a “brainstorming session” in the national Capital last week. “They [Pakistan-backed terror groups and agencies] have already tried to find potential [people for radicalisation],” the police chief claimed. “People [Indian pilgrims] who are going there... they are trying to woo them, making overtures to them.” At the meeting, concerns were also raised about cellular phones with Indian numbers being used in Pakistan, he added.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has expressed similar concerns in the past, questioning Pakistan’s intention regarding the Kartarpur project. Singh said despite his happiness as a Sikh he had maintained all along that “India cannot afford to ignore the ISI threat that was attached to it”. The Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, is Pakistan’s external intelligence agency.
The chief minister has also repeatedly warned the government that Islamabad is trying to use the corridor to win the sympathies of Sikhs and promote the ISI-backed 2020 Khalistan Referendum. Sikhs for Justice, a United States-based separatist group leading the campaign, was banned by India in July.
“This had been quite evident from various facts, most notably that General Bajwa had disclosed the Pakistani decision to build the corridor to then Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu at the time of Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony,” the Congress leader has said. “Imran had not even taken over then, yet their Army chief had spoken about this to Sidhu. How was it possible unless General Bajwa was the one behind the corridor decision?”
Gupta also said the matter should be viewed through the prism of Referendum 2020, and claimed Pakistan’s offer to not ask Sikh pilgrims for passport was a security concern. “Earlier the traffic to Pakistan was only a few jathas at Baisakhi and Gurpurab,” he added. “The footfall [now], the numbers are huge. This is huge potential. So, it is a security challenge.”