Kartarpur pilgrims won’t be subjected to Khalistani propaganda, Pak assures India

ATTARI (PUNJAB): India on Thursday asked Pakistan to ensure that the Kartarpur Sahib pilgrims are not subjected to the Khalistani separatist propaganda with the neighbouring country promising that it will not allow any such activity, an MEA official said.

The Pakistan gave the assurance on Thursday during a meeting of officials from the two countries on the proposed Kartarpur Sahib corridor.

India also said this meeting should not be seen as resumption of dialogue between the two countries.

“The matter (pro-Khalistan propaganda) has been part of discussions in which our concerns were shared with Pakistani side and we have asked them to ensure that no such activity should take place which goes against the faith of pilgrims,” MEA joint secretary Deepak Mittal told reporters.

“The Pakistani side told us that they would not allow their land for any such activity. We have, however, expressed our concern,” he said

The Ministry of External Affairs official was replying to a question on the promotion of pro-Khalistan propaganda in Pakistan and Referendum 2020, a campaign for a separate nation of “Khalistan”, run by a US-based outfit “Sikhs for Justice”.

Replying to another question, joint secretary S C L Das of the Ministry of Home Affairs said New Delhi’s expectations were made clear to the Pakistani delegation.

“The meeting in no way amounts to resumption of bilateral talks. The position on dialogue is very clear — terror and talks cannot go together,” he said.

Das said there were no handshakes at the meeting, held amid heightened tension between the two countries after the Pulwama attack.

“This in no way signifies the normalisation of relations. We have made it amply clear directly and indirectly,” he added.

The meeting was only in the context of Kartarpur Sahib corridor aimed at providing pilgrims smooth and easy access to the historic shrine, said Mittal.

On a question on possible infiltration into the corridor, risking the security and safety of devotees, Das said security concerns will remain paramount.

“We are very conscious of this aspect. It was a formal part of the agenda and the draft agreement prepared by us. We are trying to provide for an ‘escalation mechanism’ should such a thing still happen,” said Das.

The MHA official said an assurance has been given by the other side that the clearance to visit shrine will be done within seven days after an application is made for the purpose.

Another MHA official said Pakistan would make arrangements to ferry the pilgrims on its side as the shrine is 4.5 km from the border in Pakistan.

“We demanded that the pilgrims do not have to bear any extra cost,” MHA joint secretary Nidhi Khare said, adding the pilgrims cannot stay for night at the Gurudwara premises and have to return the same day.

It was the first meeting between the two sides to finalise the modalities for the proposed corridor linking Gurdaspur in Punjab with the Sikh shrine in Pakistan’s Kartarpur.

It took place in a “cordial environment”, a joint statement said.

The Union Cabinet on November 22 last year had decided to build the passage from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district to the International Border.

Source: Times of India