India puts talks with Pak on Kartarpur Corridor on hold

Last Updated 30 March 2019, 04:16 IST

India on Friday put on hold its engagement with Pakistan on the proposed “Kartarpur Corridor” after the government of the neighbouring country roped in people known for supporting the campaign for Khalistan.

Pakistan's Deputy High Commissioner to India, Syed Haider Shah, was summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in South Block in New Delhi early on Friday. The senior MEA officials conveyed to him New Delhi's concerns over the inclusion of Gopal Singh Chawla and other pro-Khalistani leaders based in Pakistan in the committee, which Prime Minister Imran Khan's Government recently constituted to welcome the pilgrims from India through the proposed “Kartarpur Corridor”, sources said.

Once completed, the “Kartarpur Corridor” linking India and Pakistan would facilitate pilgrims from India to travel to the final resting place of Sikhism's founder Guru Nanak in Pakistan.

India also asked Pakistan to clarify its position on certain issues related to implementation of the Kartarpur Corridor project on which differences emerged between the two sides when the officials of the two governments had held the first meeting on Kartarpur Corridor at Attari (India) on the Attari-Wagah border on March 14.

The second meeting between the officials of the MEA and the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India and their counterparts in Government of Pakistan had been scheduled to take place at Wagah (Pakistan) on the Attari-Wagah border on April 2.

New Delhi, however, made it clear that the next meeting could happen only when it would receive clarification from Islamabad on the reports indicating of Pakistan Government accommodated people, who had been campaigning for carving out a Khalistan out of India, sources said.

India decided to put on hold its engagement with Pakistan on Kartarpur Corridor just a day after the neighbouring country claimed that its own probe into the dossier it received from New Delhi found that no individual or entity in its territory was in any way linked to the February 14 killing of over 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir in a suicide attack.

Chawla, who is known to be linked to anti-India and pro-Khalistan entities based in Pakistan, has been accommodated in a committee that Khan Government constituted this week in connection with the “Kartarpur Corridor”.

He is also linked to radical cleric Hafiz Saeed, who is based at Lahore in Pakistan and whom New Delhi suspects to be the founder of the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) as well as the brain behind the November 26-28, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai.

Not only Chawla, but several other pro-Khalistani activists based in Pakistan – Bison Singh, Kuljit Singh and Maninder Singh – were included in the committee set up by Khan Government to welcome pilgrims from India, when they would arrive at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan.

The Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Pakistan is among the holiest for the Sikhs as it marks the place where Guru Nanak lived for 18 years and finally breathed his last in 1539.

India is insisting to make the movement of its pilgrims from the country to Pakistan through “Kartarpur Corridor” visa-free as also free of any other permit, documentation or fees. Pakistan Government, however, has been seeking to impose a special permit along with charging a fee, which, New Delhi argued, would be repugnant to the religious sentiments of pilgrims and the spirit of providing them smooth and easy access to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur through the proposed corridor. Pakistan has also not yet agreed to allow overseas citizens of India to avail the corridor.

(Published 30 March 2019, 04:02 IST)

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