The India-Pakistan ties nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place.
New Delhi/Islamabad: Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj has turned down Pakistan’s invitation to attend the ground-breaking ceremony for the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims but two of her Cabinet colleagues, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri, will attend the November 28 ritual to be performed by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, her office said on Saturday.
She had been invited by her counterpart Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi earlier in the day.
Ms Swaraj said she would not be able to attend the ceremony due to her prior commitments, which include an election rally in the poll-bound state of Telangana.
Ms Swaraj’s polite rejection of the invitation shows that India is perhaps not yet ready to engage with Pakistan at the foreign minister’s level after several months of tension with Islamabad on the issue of terrorism perpetrated against India from Pakistani soil.
The India-Pakistan ties nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place. The ties between the two countries had strained after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016.
India called off a meeting between Ms Swaraj and Mr Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September, citing the “brutal” killing of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir and the release of the postal stamps “glorifying” Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani.
Apart from Ms Swaraj, Mr Qureshi also invited Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to the ceremony.
“On behalf of Pakistan I have extended an invitation to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Capt Amarinder Singh & Navjot Singh Sidhu to attend the groundbreaking ceremony at Kartarpura on Nov 28, 2018,” Mr Qureshi tweeted.
Official sources said that proper invitation letters were also dispatched to them.
In her reply to Mr Qureshi, Ms Swaraj wrote, “Thank you for your invitation... Due to my prior commitments, including election campaign scheduled in the state of Telangana on that day, I would not be able to travel to Kartarpur Sahib. However, being mindful of the sentiments of our Sikh citizens ... we will be sending minister for food processing industries Harsmirat Kaur Badal and minister of state for housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri as Government of India’s representatives ...”.
Ms Swaraj also said that India hoped Pakistan would expedite construction of the corridor to Kartarpur Sahib.
In a major breakthrough two days ago, both India and Pakistan had decided to create a “corridor” in their respective territories for Indian Sikh pilgrims from Dera Baba Nanak (in Gurdaspur district of Indian Punjab) to the famous Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara (close to the international border in Pakistani Punjab) so that the pilgrims could visit the shrine for the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak in November next year.
Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara is situated at a site where the founder of Sikhism and the first Guru of the Sikhs Guru Nanak had spent the last years of his life in the first half of the 16th century.