On Pakistan’s 10-member panel, man who demanded Sikh referendum last year
RAHUL TRIPATHI & SHUBHAJIT ROY
Hours after India summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah and conveyed its concerns over the presence of pro-Khalistan elements in a committee set up by Pakistan on the Kartarpur Corridor, New Delhi on Friday postponed the second round of talks with Islamabad scheduled for April 2. It said the next meeting can be scheduled at an “appropriate time” after receiving Pakistan’s response on Delhi’s proposals.
The move came a day after Pakistan responded to Delhi’s dossier on Jaish-e Mohammed’s involvement in the Pulwama terrorist attack on February 14 by claiming that it had examined the 22 “pin locations” shared by India but found no terror camps.
South Block, which had expressed disappointment at this response, decided to put off the Kartarpur talks by citing divergences in their proposals on the corridor and the presence of pro-Khalistan elements in the panel.
Sources said the induction of Gopal Singh Chawla on the 10-member committee of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (PSGPC), which will “help facilitate” the visit of Indians pilgrims to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, has got Delhi seething. Chawla had played a key role in raising pro-Khalistan slogans and putting up posters on a Sikh referendum in November last year during the visit of pilgrims.
Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had announced Chawla’s inclusion, along with at least three other pro-Khalistan elements, Tara Singh, Bishon Singh and Kuljeet Singh. The committee was set up three days ago by the Cabinet led by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“These developments have raised fresh concerns in India about the safety and security of pilgrims from India and misuse of the corridor for anti-India activities. India has made amply clear in the meeting and draft agreement that Kartarpur Sahib Corridor shall not be misused for any anti-India propaganda and activities.
“India has been strongly emphasising on the need for foolproof security of pilgrims on Pakistan soil and demanding commitment from Pakistan to insulate them from any anti-India propaganda or activity during their visit to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib,” sources said.
“India has sought clarifications on reports that controversial elements have been appointed by Pakistan to a committee to be associated with the Kartarpur corridor,” sources said. A Home ministry official said, “There cannot be any let-up on national security and we have made that clear. We hope and expect that Pakistan will address the issue at the earliest.” Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mohammed Faisal called the last-minute postponement of the meeting “incomprehensible”. “Last minute postponement without seeking views from Pakistan and especially after the productive technical meeting on March 19 is incomprehensible,” Faisal tweeted.
The Indian Express had first reported that key differences on major aspects — from who should be allowed access to when and how — had emerged between India and Pakistan over the Kartarpur corridor as officials from both sides met for the first time in Attari on March 14. Sources said the MEA also asked Shah to explain his country’s stand on key proposals put forward by New Delhi at the last meeting in Attari on March 14 to discuss the modalities of the corridor.