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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

India to take up Sikh extremism issue with Pakistan at meeting over Kartarpur today

India will take up the issue of insulating Sikh pilgrims visiting shrines in Pakistan from pro-Khalistan propaganda when officials of the two sides gather at Attari on Thursday to discuss the Kartarpur corridor, people familiar with developments said on Wednesday.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2019 07:51 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi
The design of the Rs 190-crore passenger terminal building to be constructed for the Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur.
The design of the Rs 190-crore passenger terminal building to be constructed for the Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur.(PTI File Photo)
         

India will take up the issue of insulating Sikh pilgrims visiting shrines in Pakistan from pro-Khalistan propaganda when officials of the two sides gather at Attari on Thursday to discuss the Kartarpur corridor, people familiar with developments said on Wednesday.

The two sides are holding their first meeting on modalities for the corridor against the backdrop of tensions created by the Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide attack at Pulwama on February 14 that killed 40 soldiers. India responded to the terror attack by conducting an air strike on a JeM facility within Pakistan on February 26.

Even at the height of tensions, New Delhi had decided to go ahead with the meeting on the Kartarpur corridor although officials have made it clear this was not a signal for the resumption of bilateral dialogue. They have said the opening of the corridor in time for the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in November is in line with a long-standing demand of the Sikh community.

Last year, the two countries had announced plans to build the corridor, which will link Dera Baba Nanak in India with Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan.

People familiar with planning for the meeting said India will take up the pro-Khalistan propaganda at the talks, which will focus on a draft agreement for the corridor and technical issues related to the alignment of the Indian and Pakistani sections.

“We would like to see that Pakistan doesn’t work in a manner that disappoints our pilgrims. We hope it doesn’t indulge in propaganda or support secessionist tendencies,” said a person.

India had protested to Pakistan and expressed “grave concern” in the past about pro-Khalistan propaganda at several Sikh shrines visited by Indian pilgrims, including Gurdwara Janamsthan in Nankana Sahib, built at the site where Sikhism’s founder was born. Pro-Khalistan banners and posters were displayed at several Sikh shrines and Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), which is spearheading the non-binding “Referendum 2020” on creating a separate nation of Khalistan, has announced plans to open an office in Lahore.

India plans to complete a Rs 190-crore passenger terminal building for the Indian side of the corridor by September. It will have 54 immigration counters to handle 5,000 pilgrims a day. However, on special religious occasions, the complex will be capable of handling up to 15,000 pilgrims a day, the people said.

Fifty acres of land have been acquired for the Indian stretch and the passenger terminal will be a green building that will be part of a total built-up area of more than 21,600 sq m. “Foolproof and intrusion-free” security is being put in place for the Kartarpur Corridor and there will be no compromise in this regard, the people said.

“Security is paramount and it is a national concern and it will not be diluted on any count. All the concerned agencies have ensured that the security architecture is foolproof,” one of them said.

The BSF will guard the facility as it is located along the border and it will have “robust security measures”, including CCTVs and surveillance systems, the people cited above said.

First Published: Mar 14, 2019 05:21 IST