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From Kartarpur high to Kashmir low

India slams Imran for uttering K-word at ‘peace path’ foundation-stone ceremony

By in New Delhi
  • Published 29.11.18, 2:01 AM
  • Updated 29.11.18, 8:15 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during a ceremony in Kartarpur, Pakistan, on Wednesday. AP

India indicated on Wednesday that the agreement on the Kartarpur corridor did not add up to a thaw and criticised Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for uttering the K-word at the foundation-stone ceremony for the “peace path”.

As Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri prepared to cross the Attari-Wagah border on foot, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said in Hyderabad in the morning that “bilateral dialogue and Kartarpur corridor are two different things’’.

Happy that Pakistan had agreed to this longstanding Indian demand, she said: “But that doesn’t mean the bilateral dialogue will start only on this.’’

Reaffirming India’s position that “terror and talks cannot got together’’, she told the media that “the moment Pakistan stops terrorist activity in India, dialogue can start’’.

Sushma ruled out India’s participation in the Saarc summit, which is yet to be scheduled but is to be held in Pakistan as the 19th meeting, slated there for 2016, is still pending.

Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal had on Tuesday said that Islamabad would invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the summit.

The biennial summit in Islamabad could not be held in 2016 after India pulled out in protest against the terrorist attack on an army camp in Uri. Once India backed out, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan followed its example, stalling the process indefinitely.

India and Pakistan recently announced that the Kartarpur corridor would be opened to allow Sikh pilgrims to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the resting place of Guru Nanak, for his 550th birth anniversary next year.

Before sunset on Wednesday, fresh controversy had broken out. India objected to Imran bringing up Kashmir in his speech.

“We have one issue, which is Kashmir. Humans have reached the moon. Which issue can’t be solved? Cannot we solve one issue? We only need determined leadership on both sides. There is no issue which cannot be resolved,” he said.

India’s foreign ministry accused Imran of politicising a religious occasion.

“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 Kartarpur corridor by making unwarranted reference to Jammu and Kashmir which is an integral and inalienable part of India,” the ministry spokesperson said.

“Pakistan is reminded that it must fulfil its international obligations and take effective and credible action to stop providing shelter and all kind of support to cross-border terrorism from territories under its control.”

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Credited with doing in three months what could not be done in 71 years, Imran had attributed the achievement to political will.

He urged India to free itself from a past that held the two countries hostage and sought to allay fears that the Pakistani army might sabotage his peace effort. “All of us — our politicians, the army and our institutions — are on one page on this,’’ he said.

Imran reaffirmed what he had said in his first address to the nation after winning the general election in May. “You take one step, we will take two,’’ he said in the presence of the army chief, Qamar Jawed Bajwa.

The event at the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib had sought to showcase Pakistan as the country envisioned by its founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, in his much discussed but largely ignored August 11, 1947, speech.

“You are free to go to your temples… or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state,’’ Jinnah had said. Both Harsimrat and Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu spoke at the event, and had to be politely cut short for paucity of time. It was the cricketer turned Congress politician who was the star of the afternoon, however, with the Pakistanis lauding Sidhu’s role in the opening of the Kartarpur corridor.

The trip being a pilgrimage too for the two ministers, they got emotional while addressing the gathering, which included many Indian Sikhs who are in Pakistan for Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary celebrations. Both Harsimrat and Sidhu thanked Imran for making the pilgrimage possible.

But before they had left Pakistan, India officially responded to Imran’s Kashmir reference. New Delhi also cited photographs showing the pro-Khalistan secretary-general of Pakistan’s Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Gopal Singh Chawla, with the army chief at the event to accuse Islamabad of duplicity.