New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday ruled out any bilateral dialogue with Pakistan unless terror from there stopped. Swaraj said that terror and talks can’t go together. Her reaction came amidst the opening of Kartarpur corridor.
Talking to reporters in the national capital, Swaraj said, “For many years the Indian Government has been asking for this (Kartarpur) corridor, only now Pakistan responded positively. It doesn’t mean the bilateral dialogue will start because of this, terror and talks can’t go together.”
Commenting on the invitation by Pakistan for SAARC summit, Sushma Swaraj said, “We are not responding to it( invitation by Pakistan for SAARC summit) positively because as I said unless and until Pakistan stops terror activities in India, there will be no dialogue, so we will not participate in SAARC.”
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will lay the foundation of stone of the much-awaited Kartarpur Corridor today. Union Ministers Hardeep Puri, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, and Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu are attending the ceremony. (ALSO READ: Kartarpur Corridor: Pakistan Calls India’s Response to Invite Positive; Sushma Swaraj, Amarinder Not to go)
Before leaving for Pakistan Union Minister Hardeep Puri said, “I feel extremely grateful and privileged to be able to make this pilgrimage. This was a long-standing demand of the Sikh community. Express gratitude also to Pak Government.” (Also read: Centre Approves Kartarpur Sahib Corridor)
Indian Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh laid the foundation stone of the corridor in Gurdaspur on November 26.
Pakistan had invited Navjot Singh Sidhu, Sushma Swaraj, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to the ceremony but Sushma Swaraj had expressed inability to attend the ceremony citing her prior commitments. While Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had also declined the invitation citing terror attacks and killings of Indian soldiers by Pakistan armed forces, his Cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu accepted it.
Both India and Pakistan had agreed to open the corridor for the Sikh devotees for Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary. The decision came after Narendra Modi-led government had cleared a proposal to develop a corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the International Border to facilitate Indian pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan.
Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is located across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. It was established by the Sikh Guru in 1522. The first Gurdwara, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, was built here, where Guru Nanak Dev is said to have died.
The Kartarpur Corridor, which will facilitate the visa-free travel of Indian Sikh pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, is expected to be completed within six months, Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesman Mohammad Faisal had said on Tuesday.
The development comes ahead of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary next year. Thousands of Sikh devotees from India visit Pakistan every year to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
Meanwhile, India had termed Pakistan’s ‘invite’ to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the 20th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit in Islamabad as ‘ploy’. A senior government official, while speaking to The Times of India, had said, “India is not a special invitee that Pakistan has the discretion to invite us.” He further added that the date for a Saarc summit is decided with the consent of all the members and that has not happened as of yet. Notably, the formal invitations for the summit are sent out only after a decision on the dates.
The last SAARC Summit in 2014 was held in Kathmandu, which was attended by Modi. The 2016 SAARC Summit was to be held in Islamabad, but after the terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18 that year, India expressed its inability to participate in the summit due to “prevailing circumstances” and stepped up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. Nineteen Indian soldiers died in the attack.
The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to participate in the Islamabad meet.