Pakistan on Thursday rejected India's claim that Islamabad plans to transfer the management of Kartarpur border crossing for Sikh pilgrims to a state-run non-Sikh body.
"Pakistan categorically rejects the baseless and fallacious propaganda by the Indian government against the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor," said a statement from the Foreign Ministry.
Earlier, New Delhi said it has seen reports that Islamabad is transferring the management of the corridor, opened in November last year to facilitate the Indian Sikhs, to Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB).
“This unilateral decision by Pakistan is highly condemnable and runs against the spirit of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor as also the religious sentiments of the Sikh community at large,” a statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs said, calling on Islamabad to “reverse its arbitrary decision to deprive the Sikh community (of) its right to manage the affairs of the holy Gurdawara Kartarpur Sahib.”
Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC), which is currently holding the corridor's management itself has rejected the Indian claim, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry statement said.
The “malicious” propaganda, it added, by the Indian government is simply an attempt to malign the “Peace Corridor” initiative by “casting mischievous aspersions against the interests of the Sikh community and to detract attention from India’s own reprehensible human rights violations of minorities in India.”
The PSGPC remains responsible for carrying out rituals in Gurdwaras, including the Kartarpur as per “Sikh Rehat Maryada” -- code of conduct and conventions for Sikhism -- according to the statement.
The Project Management Unit (PMU) under the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) has “simply been created to facilitate the PSGPC in this regard,” it went on to say.
“Any insinuations regarding 'transferring' the affairs of the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur from the PSGPC to the PMU are not only contrary to the facts but also aimed at creating religious disharmony by the Hindutva-driven BJP government in India,” the statement further said.
The Sikh community from all over the world, it added, remains greatly appreciative of the efforts made by Pakistan “to complete the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor Project in record time and for the excellent arrangements made to facilitate the pilgrims.”
Islamabad itself “advised” New Delhi to take steps to “protect its minorities and their places of worship, rather than feigning misleading and sham concerns for the rights of minorities elsewhere,” the statement said.
The two longtime rivals had opened the key border crossing for Sikh pilgrims ahead of 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion last year in Pakistan.
Kartarpur border connects Pakistan’s northeastern Narowal city to India’s eastern Gurdaspur district.
Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara situated in Narowal -- some 115 kilometers (71 miles) from provincial capital Lahore -- is one of the most revered temple for the Sikh community as Baba Guru Nanak spent last 18 years of his life here.
The distance between the temple and Gurdaspur is merely 3 kilometers (2 miles) but the closure of this crossing costs Sikh pilgrims from India to travel hundreds of kilometers, via Amritsar and Lahore, to reach here.