India keeps Khalistan threat off Kartarpur talks

India keeps Khalistan threat off Kartarpur talks

Issue was consciously kept out of the agenda to focus more on the corridor

India did not raise the issue of Pakistan supporting the Khalistani movement during the March 14 delegation-level talks to discuss the modalities of the Kartarpur Corridor.

A senior government official who attended the meeting told The Hindu that the Khalistan threat was deliberately not put on the agenda.

“We did not want to give Pakistan an opportunity to deviate from discussing the modalities of the corridor, which is a priority for us. Had we brought in other issues, they would have transgressed, defeating the purpose,” said the official.

Overseas groups

The government’s stand comes amid concerns of secessionist groups, including Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a U.S.-Canada based group, planning to organise a convention on ‘Khalistan-Referendum 2020’ at the Kartarpur shrine.

Indian security agencies have raised concerns about Pakistan using the corridor to push the Khalistani agenda from across the border. The official said that while the possibility of Pakistani agencies trying to radicalise Sikh youth existed, India would have to trust its citizens.

A source said the Khalistan issue might have not been raised during the delegation-level talks, but over the years India has raised it with Pakistan.

The source also said these concerns were being raised with the U.S., Canada and other countries whose citizens are participating in the protests.

Interestingly a day before the talks were held at Attari, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan met pro-Khalistan activist Gopal Singh Chawla in Islamabad along with members of other minority communities.

The source said during the inaugural ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor last year, India had objected to the presence of Mr. Chawla.

Amarinder’s caution

Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh on Saturday said India’s agenda may be religious but Pakistan’s is totally disruptive. “While Pakistan Prime Minister talks of peace, their Army Chief continues to promote his evil designs. Number of ISI-backed terror modules busted in Punjab in recent months indicated their true intent,” the Chief Minister said.

Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs,S.C.L Das led the Indian delegation and the Pakistan delegation was led by Mohammad Faisal, DG (SA & SAARC) of Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After the meeting, India accused Pakistan of doublespeak and said the actual offer made by the neighbouring country was “farcical and mere tokenism.”

On the referendum, the source said it was not linked to the Kartarpur corridor, and it cannot be held by citizens of another country and many people agitating were not citizens of India. The source said a minuscule population of Sikhs want to hold agitations and they were a small minority of overseas Sikh communities in Canada U.S. etc.

Sikh bodies have been petitioning both the Governments to build a pilgrim corridor over the border from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur to Kartarpur in Pakistani Punjab’s Narowal province. The plan is to complete the project by November 23, 2019, the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. Founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, spent the final years of his life at Kartarpur.

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