Days before he leads the inaugural jatha of pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh Saturday said he still had his suspicions that the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor could be an operation of the ISI aimed at wooing the Sikh community for the Referendum 2020 promoted by some separatists demanding a separate Khalistan.
“We have to be on our toes,” Amarinder said, warning India against taking Pakistan at its face value, especially in view of the heightened ISI activity being noted in Punjab in recent months.
The corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur – the final resting place Guru Nanak – with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district.
Amarinder’s reaction came after Pakistan invited his former Cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu for opening of the corridor on November 9. Sidhu has sought political clearance from the CM and Ministry of External Affairs. Amarinder had earlier said that he would not attend Pakistan’s function even if invited.
Earlier, during a curtain raiser session of Hoshiarpur Writers’ Festival via video conferencing from Chandigarh, Amarinder described Referendum 2020 as ISI’s attempt to divide the Sikh community by inciting their passions for narrow political objectives.
The Punjab CM also lamented the “politicisation” of the Kartarpur Corridor, saying it was in violation of the ideology of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, whose 550th birth anniversary is being celebrated this year.
“India should have stood as one, especially considering the deeper agenda which seemed to be behind the Pakistan’s decision to open the corridor and also to set up a university in the name of the first Sikh guru, but instead the whole issue had been politicised for vested interests,” he said in a statement.
The chief minister reiterated his stance that “politics should have been put aside and the mega event should have been left to be organised by the state government, as per past practice on such occasions”.
During the session, hosted by senior journalist Vir Sanghvi, Amarinder reiterated his demand for waiver of $20 fee on all Indian pilgrims and not just Sikhs.
With reference to his biography – Captain Amarinder Singh, The People’s Maharaja – the CM, in response to a question, agreed that militarily, Operation Blue Star could have been handled better. Terming the period as a most horrific in the history of the state, he said there was utter confusion even amongst the officers supposed to be handling the Operation. Crediting his military experience with preparing him for tough political and personal battles, he said the qualities he imbued from his Army service had always stood him in good stead.