New Delhi: While on one side, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan talked about peace and mending ties with India during the Kartarpur Corridor groundbreaking ceremony, a prominent pro-Khalistan separatist leader was seen shaking hands with Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the same event.
Wearing yellow turban, Khalistani terrorist Gopal Chawla was also reportedly seen posing with the Pakistan PM.
Chawla’s presence stands as a testimony to Pakistan’s sympathy for extremist forces active against India.
When asked, a Pakistani official said, Gopal Chawla is a senior leader of Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (PSGPC), and he was invited to all events involving the Sikh community.
Chawla is the general secretary of the PSGPC and is known as a pro-Khalistan voice. Khalistan leaders were also present at the event.
“Indian media taking a myopic view is selectively showing Mr Gopal Singh meeting COAS. Army Chief met all guests at the venue irrespective of identity. A peace initiative should not be subjected to propaganda,” ISPR DG Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor tweeted.
Commenting on the development, Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said: “Everybody talks about giving peace a chance. You see what the government said today. This (Kartarpur Corridor) is to be seen in isolation. It shouldn’t be linked to anything else.”
Sources said Singh was instrumental in denying access to Indian High Commission officials to two gurudwaras in Pakistan a few days back.
The officials had gone to the gurudwaras to meet Indian pilgrims. India had slammed Pakistan for refusing access to the pilgrims.
Earlier, Chawla was seen sharing dais with 2008 Mumbai terror attack mastermind and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed.
Speaking at an event in Pakistan in August 2017, Chawla talked of using organisations like Milli Muslim League, a political front for Saeed’s banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa, to ‘get rid of India’.
On the other hand, Imran Khan said his government, the army and all political parties in Pakistan are on the same page to improve ties with India, asserting that all issues, including Kashmir, can be resolved with “strength and will” of leadership of the two countries.
Khan made a strong pitch for better ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbours after laying the foundation stone for the historic Kartarpur Corridor linking two revered gurdwaras on both sides of the border here.
India termed Pakistan PM’s reference to Kashmir “deeply regrettable” and said he chose to politicise a pious moment.
The Ministry of External Affairs said Jammu and Kashmir was an “integral and inalienable” part of India.
“It is deeply regrettable that the Prime Minister of Pakistan chose to politicise the pious occasion meant to realise the long pending demand of the Sikh community to develop a Kartarpur corridor by making unwarranted reference to Jammu and Kashmir which is an integral and inalienable part of India,” the ministry said.
It added that Pakistan must fulfil its international obligations and take effective and credible action to stop providing shelter and all kinds of support to cross border terrorism from territories under its control.
Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in Hyderabad that there will be no dialogue with Pakistan unless it desists from terrorist activities against India.
She also said the Kartarpur corridor initiative — connecting Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev’s final resting place in Kartarpur to the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district — was not linked to the dialogue process with Pakistan.