India conveys concerns to Pak on possible attempts to disrupt Kartarpur Sahib pilgrimage

New Delhi: India on Sunday conveyed its concerns to Pakistan on the possible attempts by individuals and groups to disrupt the Kartarpur Sahib pilgrimage and the possible flooding of the Dera Baba Nanak due to earth filled embankment road or a causeway proposed by Islamabad as officials from the two countries held a crucial round of talks.

India flagged its concerns during the second round of the talks on the Kartarpur corridor that took place between delegations of the two countries in Wagah on the Pakistani side of the border.

“Concerns regarding individuals or organisations based in Pakistan who may try to disrupt the pilgrimage and misuse the opportunity to play with the sentiments of the pilgrims were shared. A dossier was handed over to Pakistan side to highlight concerns in the matter,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

“The Pakistan side assured our delegation that no anti-India activity would be allowed,” it said.

India had earlier conveyed its strong concerns to Pakistan over the presence of a leading Khalistani separatist in a 10-member committee appointed by Islamabad on the project.

Pakistan dropped Khalistani separatist Gopal Singh Chawla from the committee after New Delhi’s objection. Chawla was the secretary-general of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhik Committee which would facilitate Sikh pilgrims after opening of the corridor.

The Indian delegation also sought consular presence in the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara to be able to provide assistance to pilgrims, if required.

The bone of contention is connecting the two sides at the zero point which was also discussed.

India is constructing a bridge at the zero point and has urged Pakistan to build a similar bridge on its side that will provide safe and secure movement of pilgrims and address concerns regarding flooding.

Another option proposed by Pakistan is building a causeway which is also not acceptable to India as it has been insisting on an all-weather bridge. The bridge is over a creek of which the majority part falls in Pakistan.

India delegation conveyed concerns regarding the possible flooding of the Dera Baba Nanak and adjoining areas on the Indian side as a result of earth filled embankment road or a causeway, the statement said, adding a detailed flood analysis was shared with Pakistan to underscore these concerns.

The Indian delegation said an earth filled embankment or a causeway proposed by Pakistan will create problems for its people and this should not be built even in the interim.

“Pakistan side agreed, in principle, to build a bridge at the earliest,” the MEA statement said.

By M Zulqernain