New Delhi: India on Friday summoned Pakistan's deputy high commissioner here and conveyed concerns over the presence of a leading Khalistani separatist in a committee appointed by Pakistan on the Kartarpur Corridor project, official sources said. They said India will wait for a response from Pakistan on the issue and is not going ahead with a previously agreed meeting on the Kartarpur corridor on April 2 in Wagah on the Pakistani side.
Sources said, in diplomatic communication, India has proposed April 15 or 16 for the meeting, and sought Pakistan's concurrence. They said India has sought clarifications on a number of issues from Pakistan including on the presence of Khalistani separatist Chawla in the Kartarpur committee as well as an association of other anti-India elements like Bison Singh, Kuljit Singh and Maninder Singh in the project. They said Chawla, a close aide of terrorist Hafiz Saeed, is part of the committee, which was not acceptable to India.
The Pakistani Cabinet constituted a 10-member Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) to facilitate Sikh pilgrims after the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor. Sources said Pakistan has agreed to allow pilgrims from all faiths to visit Kartarpur Sahib as demanded by India. Initially, Pakistan said only Sikh pilgrims will be allowed to visit the shrine.
Pakistan was conveyed that the issue has raised fresh concerns in India about the safety and security of pilgrims and possible misuse of the corridor for anti-India activities, sources said. India has been strongly emphasising on the need for foolproof security for its pilgrims on the Pakistani soil and demanding commitment from the neighbouring country to insulate them from any anti-India propaganda during their visit to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, sources said.
India also asked Pakistani Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah his country's stand on key proposals put forward by New Delhi at the last meeting held in Attari to discuss the modalities of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, they said.
A Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement said it has been conveyed to the Pakistani side that the next meeting on the modalities of the corridor can be scheduled at an appropriate time after receiving Pakistan's response. The two sides had met on March 14 to thrash out sticky issues relating to the project.
In order to take forward the infrastructure development for the corridor in an expeditious manner, India has proposed to hold another meeting of technical experts in mid-April to resolve outstanding issues at the zero point agreed to at the last meeting, the statement said.
The Indian government remains committed to realising the long-pending demand of the Indian pilgrims to visit the Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor in a safe, secure, smooth and easy manner, it said. India has asked Pakistan to allow pilgrims to travel on foot if they wish. It also urged that another 10,000 pilgrims be allowed access on festivals like Baisakhi and Gurupurab.
Last November, India and Pakistan agreed to set up the border crossing linking Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India's Gurdaspur district.
Kartarpur Sahib is located in Pakistan's Narowal district across the river Ravi, about four km from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had on November 26 last year laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur district.
Two days later, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the corridor in Narowal, 125 km from Lahore.