Hours after India summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah and conveyed its concern over the presence of pro-Khalistan elements in a committee set up by Pakistan on the Kartarpur Corridor, New Delhi Friday postponed the second round of corridor 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 India’s proposals. The move came a day after Pakistan, responding to India’s dossier on Jaish-e-Mohammad’s involvement in the Pulwama terror attack on February 14, claimed it had examined the 22 “pin locations” shared by India but found no terror camp.
The gulf widens
Postponement of the Kartarpur talks reflects distrust between India and Pakistan, which has worsened since the Pulwama terror attack. And with poll season in full swing, it is unlikely the Indian side will retreat and make conciliatory gestures.
South Block, which had expressed disappointment at this response, decided to put off the talks, citing divergences in the proposals on the corridor and the presence of pro-Khalistan elements in the panel.
Sources said the Ministry of External Affairs (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.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Faisal called the 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.
Sources said the induction of Gopal Singh Chawla in the 10-member committee of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC), which will “help facilitate” the visit of Indians pilgrims to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, has Delhi seething. Chawla 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 Indian 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 constituted 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 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 Gurudwara 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.”