Two days after differences emerged between India and Pakistan over the proposed Kartarpur corridor, New Delhi said on Saturday that Islamabad’s perceived generosity is not matched with its approach during the bilateral talks.
Sources said that while Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initial statements about the Kartarpur corridor were very generous and an open-ended offer, when its team came for the discussions, they have a very “narrow” and “limited focus” on the project.
Sources said that India was also concerned about plans by some Sikh groups in the US, Canada and Australia to organise a convention in Pakistan to draw support for “referendum 2020” under which they are seeking support for a separate Khalistan. They said New Delhi is conveying to the countries, where pro-Khalistani activities are taking place, that talking about separatism in another country will be tantamount to interference in internal matters of India. They said India is of the view that the noise being made by a small group of people does not represent the views of the Sikh community and that people agitating for the referendum are not citizens of India.
As reported by The Indian Express, key differences on major aspects emerged between the two countries — from who should be allowed access to when and how, both sides had divergent views at the meeting to discuss modalities for pilgrims to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan through the proposed Kartarpur Sahib corridor.
While India wants 5,000 pilgrims to visit in a single day, Pakistan wants only 500 to 700 pilgrims daily, citing logistical constraints. New Delhi has asked for opening of the corridor on all seven days but Islamabad has proposed that it should be open only on designated days.
India has sought “visa-free access” but Pakistan has said there should be special permits with a fee. India has asked that the corridor be opened to Indian nationals as well as those foreign nationals who have Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards but Pakistan has said it will allow only resident Indian nationals. OCI cardholders cover Sikhs from Canada, UK and other countries.
India has asked that pilgrims be allowed to walk the distance, but Pakistan has argued that pilgrims should only be ferried across by bus.
New Delhi accused Islamabad of “surreptitiously usurping” land belonging to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in the name of developing the corridor. Sources said the Indian delegation has lodged a strong protest with their Pakistan counterparts against the “rampant encroachment” on the land belonging to the shrine. The encroached land was donated to Kartarpur Sahib by the late Maharaja Ranjeet Singh and others.
Pakistan government sources have said, “India is in no position to object…Every country has the right to decide how a religious corridor within its territory would operate and we take no dictations…”
Both sides will meet again on April 2 at Wagah on the Pakistani side. On March 19, a group of technical experts from both sides will meet at zero line to finalise the alignment of the corridor approaching from Indian and Pakistani side.