Pakistan must stop sponsoring terror first, says Sushma Swaraj.
New Delhi: India on Wednesday lashed out at Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for raising the Kashmir issue at the ground-breaking ceremony of Kartarpur Corridor, while external affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reiterated that there cannnot be any dialogue with Pakistan as long as it supports terrorism, making it clear that India will not attend the Saarc summit in Islamabad.
In New Delhi, the external affairs ministry said it was “deeply regrettable” that Mr Khan “chose to politicise the pious occasion” by an “unwarranted reference to Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral and inalienable part of India”. Instead, India said, Pakistan should act against the terrorism being perpetrated from its soil.
Emphasising that the Kartarpur Corridor project between the two countries will not lead to talks unless Pakistan stops sponsoring terror, India rejected the possibility of both a bilateral dialogue with Pakistan and the proposed move to invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a Saarc summit that it wants to host in Islamabad.
Ms Swaraj said: “Unless and until Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India, there will be no dialogue and we will not participate in Saarc.” On Tuesday Pakistan had said it intended to invite Mr Modi whenever the Saarc summit is held there.
On Wednesday, at the ground-breaking ceremony to build the corridor on the Pakistani side for Sikh pilgrims wishing to visit Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, the Pakistan PM said: “We have just one problem, Kashmir. If man can walk on the moon, what problems are there that we cannot resolve? We only need determined leadership on both sides.”
India’s ministry of external affairs hit back, saying, “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 a Kartarpur corridor by making unwarranted reference to Jammu & Kashmir which is an integral and inalienable part of India. 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.”
The Pakistani government had invited Ms Swaraj for the ceremony but she declined citing prior commitments but wrote back saying two Union ministers — Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri (both of whom are Sikhs) — would represent the Indian government.
India had in September reiterated that the situation was not conducive to holding a Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) summit, following which Pakistan had launched a sharp and barely-veiled attack on India.
Ms Swaraj had conveyed New Delhi’s view at an informal meeting of the Saarc council of ministers in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, pointing out that “terrorism remains the single largest threat to peace and stability in our region” and that “it is necessary that we end the ecosystem of its support”.
In retaliation, Pakistan accused “one country” of holding the people of South Asia “hostage” and trying to “scuttle” the Saarc process.
Saarc has virtually been in cold storage due to Indo-Pak tensions. The 19th Saarc Summit, which was to take place in Islamabad in 2016, was “indefinitely postponed” after India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan, among others, pulled out of the event. India had cited cross-border terrorism, specifically Pathankot and Uri terror attacks, as the reason for pulling out of the summit.
Saarc member countries are India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and the Maldives.