Pak’s proximity to Khalistani leaders have ‘heightened’ security concerns: India

New Delhi, Mar 29 :  India on Friday said security issues and the possibility of ‘potential misuse of the Kartarpur Corridor’ was definitely a chief concern for India when it agreed to work on the project with Pakistan but ‘few recent developments’ have only heightened the concerns.
“Security was a fundamental point and India was firm there will be no compromise on this. It was absolutely clear and unqualified….but in between as we have seen these developments; so they have only heightened our concerns,” an official source said here.
India on Friday summoned Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah here and raised protests over Khalistani presence in the Pakistani panel on Kartarpur Corridor project.
“We told Pakistan categorically that while we are very keen to bring these discussions on the modalities, we need clarifications,” the source said adding, the Pakistan government through cabinet decision has set up a committee on Kartarpur and number of controversial names have come in that.
These include – the names of Gopal Singh Chawla, Maninder Singh, Tara Singh, Bisan Singh and Kuljeet Singh.
Sources indicated now New Delhi wants Pakistan to issue clarification on specific queries including the composition of the panel that includes pro-Khalistan Sikh leaders like Gopal Singh Chawla – who also has association with JuD chief Hafiz Saeed.
“The concerns were there and these were raised and we were hoping for a categorical response,” the source said and thus in view of the recent developments, India has only raised the ‘level of concerns’.
The MEA in a statement said it has been conveyed that the next meeting on the modalities can be scheduled “at an appropriate time after receiving Pakistan’s response”.
The first round of the Kartarpur talks were held at Attari on March 14 and it was represented by officials of MEA, Home Affairs and also representatives from the Punjab government from Indian side.
The next round of talks were scheduled on April 2 at Wagah, but Indian officials had raised doubts on
Pakistan’s sincerity on the Kartarpur Corridor by mid March itself.
There were several gaps and among other things what have come to light is that authorities in Islamabad were agreeing to allow only 700 pilgrims per day as against 5000 proposed by India.
According to official sources here,“Pakistan has lived up to its old reputation of making false promises, tall claims and delivering nothing”.
The Indian delegation led by a senior Home Ministry official during the talks at Attari did strongly protest against the “rampant encroachment” on the lands belonging to the holy Sikh shrine in utter disregard to the sentiments of devotees.
Sources said while India has started executing a state-of-the-art passenger terminal building for visit of over 5,000 pilgrims daily and over 15,000 pilgrims on special occasions like Vaisakhi that falls in mid-April, Pakistan – to utter surprise of many – has limited it to mere 700 pilgrims per day.
There were other issues as well, while India sought for opening the corridor on all seven days for pilgrims’ visits, on its part Pakistan has ‘restricted’ the visits to specific days (and not throughout the week).
Pakistan also did not agree on devotees’ travel as individuals on foot and insisted on their movement in a group of at least 15 on board a vehicle, sources said.
India and Pakistan last year agreed to open a special border crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur – the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev – to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district.
During Attari talks on Thursday India pressed for visa-free travel for Kartarpur pilgrims.
‘This corridor should be absolutely visa-free,” an Home Ministry official said here last month.
Sources said the gaps were still there, Pakistan has so far declined to allow the Overseas Citizen of India card holders.
The government is, however, firm while it is keen to allow Kartarpur Corridor to come up at the earliest especially as this year happens to be 550th year of Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary — “there cannot be let up on security concerns”.


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