OpIndia has accessed a list of Indian journalists who have been approved by the Pakistan High Commission to travel to Pakistan and cover the Kartarpur Corridor inauguration ceremony.
On November 22, the government of India had announced its intention to build the Indian side of the Kartarpur Corridor and had urged Pakistan to reciprocate by building the corridor on Pakistan side. On the same day, Pakistan had responded positively. After that, Pakistan moved swiftly and announced that prime minister Imran Khan will lay the foundation stone for the corridor on 28th November. India will lay the foundation stone for its side of the corridor on 26th November.
The Kartarpur Corridor inauguration ceremony in Pakistan had created quite the stir in India after Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu accepted Imran Khan’s invite and had praised Imran Khan profusely. Minister Sushma Swaraj couldn’t go and Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had declined the invitation. Swaraj had also reiterated that sending India’s representatives to Pakistan does not open the doors to talks.
The list of the journalists approved by the Pakistan High Commission is as follow:
We are told that the list of journalists who are to cover the Kartarpur Corridor inauguration has been carefully vetted by the Pakistan High Commission. Barkha Dutt, whose name was amusingly spelt as “Burkha Dutt” topped the list.
Among others who were invited are senior journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghosh, Siddharth Varadarajan of The Wire, Jyoti Malhotra of The Print, Suhasini Haider from The Hindu and Sunetra Choudhury from NDTV.
Interestingly, the list did not feature several prominent news agencies like Republic, Zee News, Times Now or even ANI, which is arguably the largest news agency of India. On Twitter, when Smita Prakash was asked why no journalist from ANI was invited, she said that her journalists did not get a Pakistan visa.
Nope. We didn’t get visa.
— Smita Prakash (@smitaprakash) November 29, 2018
That ANI journalists did not get a visa and 3 journalists from The Wire and others from portals like The Print make it to a list of ‘approved’ journalists by the Pakistan High Commission, is intruiging.
We have blanked out the journalists’ passport numbers to protect their privacy, however, it is worthy to note that Founding Editor of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan had a USA passport listed and not an Indian passport.
The Indian journalists were also seen dining with Pakistan Foreign Minister Qureshi. Barkha Dutt tweeted a video of the dinner.
I ask Pakistan Foreign Minister @SMQureshiPTI about India’s objection to Kashmir being being mentioned at #KartarpurCorridor : He says: “Kashmir is acknowledged as outstanding issue even in our composite dialogue. Like Terrorism is…” Watch full reply here .. #Kartarpur pic.twitter.com/r0DiCPq1Bv
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) November 29, 2018
Our sources also tell us that a meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is set to take place this afternoon.
Some Indian journalists in Pakistan seemed jubilant at the thought of being in Pakistan. Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted that it was his chance to meet old friends.
My ‘friends’ on twitter would call it ‘Ghar Wapsi’; for me a chance to meet old friends and observe Pakistan! ??? pic.twitter.com/QQmsvYRX2k
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) November 27, 2018
While Sunetra Choudhary of NDTV tweeted that it was time to give peace a chance.
— sunetra choudhury (@sunetrac) November 27, 2018
Barkha Dutt and Arnab Goswami have often found each other on opposite sides as far as their love for Pakistan is concerned. Barkha Dutt, who loves to take digs at Arnab and Republic TV, said that while “hard-nosed cynics and journalists” debate India and Pakistan, some are “unabashedly sentimental”. Incidentally, judging from the list, nobody from Republic TV was invited to Pakistan.
Hard nosed cynics and Journalists can keep debating India and Pakistan and #KartarpurCorridor but some are unabashedly sentimental. Interviewed Chanchal Manohar Singh & Riaz Ahmad , Indian and Pakistani and friends for ten years. All smiles. All optimism. Video coming next ! pic.twitter.com/txHDtmByLS
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) November 27, 2018
Interestingly, Siddharth Varadarajan of The Wire has maintained a stony silence about his Pakistan trip on his Twitter timeline.
Approval of journalists to enter a country is not unheard of practice and many nations do it. However, it is not clear if the original list of proposed Indian journalists travelling to Pakistan had some names that couldn’t pass the test by Pakistani High Commission. Some omissions of names and media organisations are apparent, but it is not clear if they were rejected by the High Commissioner or never considered for an invitation in the first place.