India seeks Pakistan clarification on presence of Khalistani elements in Kartarpur Corridor project

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FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2018 file photo, Indian Sikh pilgrims visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the shrine of their spiritual leader Guru Nanak Dev in Kartarpur, Pakistan. Officials from India and Pakistan met Thursday, March 14, amid easing tensions to discuss opening a visa-free border crossing to allow pilgrims to easily visit the Sikh shrine just inside Pakistan.(AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary, File)

New Delhi: India on Friday summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah and conveyed its concerns over the presence of Khalistani separatists in a committee appointed by Pakistan on the Kartarpur Corridor project, sources said.

India’s decision has put on hold the second round of Kartarpur Corridor talks scheduled for April 2.

An External Affairs Ministry release said it has been conveyed that the next meeting on the modalities can be scheduled at an appropriate time after receiving Pakistan’s response.

India has also sought clarifications from Islamabad on key proposals put forward in the last meeting held at Attari to discuss the modalities of the corridor.

“India has shared concerns and sought clarifications on reports that controversial elements have been appointed by Pakistan to a committee to be associated with the Kartarpur Corridor,” it said.

The release said India has proposed another meeting of techncial experts in mid-April to resolve outstanding issues at the zero point agreed to at the last meeting in order to take forward the infrastructure development for the corridor in an expeditious manner.

“Government of India remains committed to realise the long pending demand of the Indian pilgrims to visit the holy Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor in a safe, secure, smooth and easy manner,” it said.

Visiting Indian Sikh pilgrims attend a ceremony in Kartarpur, Pakistan, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the first visa-free border crossing with India, a corridor that will allow Sikh pilgrims to easily visit their shrines on each side of the border. The crossing, known as the Kartarpur corridor is a rare sign of cooperation between the two nuclear-armed rival countries.(AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

Sources said India has already made it clear that the Kartarpur Corridor should not be used for anti-India activities or propaganda.

They said there have been reports about Gopal Singh Chawla, a close aide of Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed being made a member of a 10-member committee for managing Kartarpur Sahib corridor. Reports have also surfaced about association of other anti-India elements such as Bison Singh, Kuljit Singh and Maninder Singh with the corridor .

The sources said the developments have raised fresh concerns about safety and security of Indian pilgrims and misuse of corridor for anti-India activities.

India has been strongly emphasising the need for fool-proof security of pilgrims on Pakistani soil and demanding commitment from Pakistan to insulate them from any anti-India propaganda.

The sources said India will await credible explanation from Pakistan before the next round of discussions and is keen that these are fruitful to meet expectations of devotees of Guru Nanak Dev in India and abroad.

They said that implementation of corridor project on the Indian side is proceeding at a vigorous pace and work on border infrastructure by Land Port Authority of India an on road infrastructure by NHAI is in full swing. Both the organisations have been given a firm deadline to complete the works by September 2019.

India wants to make the corridor visa-free as also free of any other permit, documentation or fee while Pakistan has been seeking a special permit.