With India Friday hinting that it is likely to reschedule the second round of meeting on the Kartarpur Corridor with Pakistan, concerns have mounted in Punjab over the fate of the project, awaited eagerly by the Sikh masses.
The meeting was to be held on April 2 at Wagah on the Pakistani side. On Friday, India summoned Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner amid concerns over the presence of leading Khalistani separatist Gopal Singh Chawla, a close aide of terrorist Hafiz Saeed, in a 10-member committee appointed by Pakistan on the Kartarpur Corridor, official sources said. India has also sought clarifications on a number of issues from Pakistan including association of other anti-India elements like Bison Singh, Kuljit Singh and Maninder Singh in the project. India will wait for a response from Pakistan on the issue before deciding the new date for the meeting, they said.
The latest development has left the Sikh community wondering over the fate of the project that was not shelved or slowed even when the tension escalated between the two countries after Pulwama terrorist attack and subsequent air strikes by India in Pakistan. Work on the project, sources said, is on in the full swing on the other side of the border.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarider Singh has several times expressed confidence that nothing can come in the way of the corridor. However, he did not react to the latest development. “We do not know what will happen. India has hardened its stand against Pakistan. It seems the meeting will not happen unless Pakistan actually expels Chawla from the panel,” said a functionary of the government.
He added, “We did not postpone the meeting even after the Pulwama attack and the retaliatory air strikes. We can only wait and watch. And we hope there is a solution soon”.
Punjab Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who is an MLA from Dera Baba Nanak, from where the way to the corridor on the Indian side is to be constructed, said, “What if Chawla is on the panel? Pakistan is a terrorist country for us. They can even have Hafiz Saeed on the panel. How do we care? They can have anyone on the panel. If our concern is Chawla, we should not allow him to enter our country and if at all he does then he should be treated like any other terrorist. Why should this come in the way of the corridor that the people have been waiting for since after the partition?”
Randhawa went on to add that the way “Prime Minister Narendra Modi is coming in the way of corridor to Baba Nanak’s place, it is certain that AICC president Rahul Gandhi” will be the next Prime Minister. “Eh sewa vi Rahul ji de hathon hi honi hai (This work too is destined to be done by Rahul ji).”
the minister added that he was already working overtime to get the work completed on Indian side of the border, “Only today, I got a religious dera to agree to get the gate constructed at Dera Baba Nanak. We want this to happen soon.”
Meanwhile, former minister and senior Shiromani Akali Dal leader, Bikram Singh Majithia said that “Pakistan had a design” and they were not walking on the path of “Sarbat da Bhala” shown by Guru Nanak. He said Chawla being a member of their committee was an indication of their intention. “They should remove Chawla from the panel and hand him over to India. How can Hafiz Saeed’s aide be on the panel,” he asked.
He, however, said the talks on the project should continue so that the corridor becomes a reality.