Any suggestion that India cleared the Katarpur corridor project as a response to a Pakistani proposal is not only preposterous, but hurtful to the sentiments of the Sikh community, government sources said Thursday.
They also said India favoured keeping the proposed Katarpur corridor, linking a historic Sikh shrine in Pakistan with India's border district of Gurdaspur, open for pilgrims round-the-clock throughout the year.
The sources said India was for facilitating easy movement of Indians to the shrine in Pakistan and that there must be no restrictions on the number of pilgrims. They also said there must be free and readily available consular access for Indian citizens on the Pakistani side.
The sources said India's proposal for the corridor had been pending with Pakistan for more than 20 years. It was Pakistan that had refused to acknowledge the request, they said.
The response came after there was an indication from Pakistan that Islamabad was eager to build the corridor irrespective of India's stand.
The Union Cabinet Thursday cleared the proposal to build a corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district to the international border as part of celebrations of Guru Nanak's 550th birth anniversary next year.
Following the Cabinet decision, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson said India has urged Pakistan to build the corridor to Kartarpur Sahib on the Pakistani side to facilitate visit of Indian pilgrims to the shrine -- the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev.
Hours later, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Islamabad has conveyed to India its decision to open the Kartarpura corridor.
Kartarpur Sahib is situated in Narowal district of Pakistan's Punjab province and there have been demands to build a corridor linking it with Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district of Punjab.
The sources said India wants the corridor to be kept open for 24 hours on all days.
They said despite the harassment that pilgrims face on the Pakistani side, with the display of Khalistani posters or through the lack of access to consular officials, Sikh pilgrims continue to make the difficult journey."Our proposal is such that the burden of pilgrims can be eased significantly," saifull-fledged
The sources said India's intention is that the corridor must be a full fledged one that allows for maximum movement and that it should be open not just on special occasions but throughout the year.
They said the cabinet passed a resolution on the Kartarpur corridor project after many weeks of internal consultations and preparation within the government.
The resolution is a comprehensive document that contains detailed information on the plans for the celebration of 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, not just on the corridor, the sources said.
Earlier, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India has approached Pakistan government to recognise the sentiments of the Sikh community and build the corridor, in keeping with the resolution adopted by the Cabinet to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev next year.
"... We have approached and urged the Pakistan government to recognise the sentiments of Sikh community and build a corridor with suitable facilities in their territory to facilitate easy and smooth visits of pilgrims from India to Kartarpur Sahib throughout the year," he said.