Citing terror by Pakistan, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh declines invite to Kartarpur ceremony

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS AGENCY)

 

Citing terror by Pakistan, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh declines invite to Kartarpur ceremony

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh cited terrorist attacks in his state and the killings of Indian soldiers by Pakistani armed forces.

INDIA Updated: Nov 25, 2018 23:34 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
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Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh(AFP File Photo)

Punjab’s chief minister Amarinder Singh has declined an invitation by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to attend the laying of the foundation stone for the Kartarpur corridor on November 28, citing terrorist attacks in his state and the killings of Indian soldiers by Pakistani armed forces.

In a letter to the Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Amarinder welcomed it as a “historic occasion”, which he also described as a “cherished desire of Sikhs around the world”, but said he would not be present for the ceremony across the border.

“[Pakistan’s spy agencies] ISI has started its nefarious activities within Punjab and since my government was sworn in, in March 2017, the state neutralized 19 ISI armed and controlled modules, apprehended 81 terrorists and recovered 79 weapons, in addition to numerous grenades made in Pakistan’s ordnance factories,” said Amarinder, referring to last week’s grenade attack on a Nirankari religious gathering in Amritsar.

Two people have been arrested in connection with the attack that killed three people. Police suspect the role of a Khalistani group backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

“I hope the Pakistan Prime Minister will understand that in these circumstances it will not be possible for me to be present in Pakistan, despite the fact that paying my respects at Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib has always been a cherished dream which will hopefully be fulfilled once these hostilities are stopped,” added Amarinder, who received the invitation from Qureshi on the behalf of PM Imran Khan.

But a minister in his state cabinet, Navjot Singh Sidhu, accepted the invitation “with unalloyed joy”.

“As our nations take this first step, the Kartarpur Spirit can make pilgrims of us all, venturing out on a journey that breaks the barriers of history and opens the borders of hearts and the mind,” he wrote in his letter to Qureshi.

Sidhu, on his last visit to Pakistan on August 18 to attend Khan’s swearing in ceremony, sparked a controversy after he hugged Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched an attack and the Punjab CM expressed unhappiness over his gesture, Sidhu justified his visit to Pakistan saying he went there as a messenger of peace and hugged the Pakistani army chief in an emotional response to the information provided by him that the neighbour country was working on the corridor to Kartarpur Sahib.

On Thursday, both India and Pakistan agreed to build corridor on their respective sides, to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019. Welcoming the move, Amarinder had said the move will facilitate pilgrims desirous of visiting Kartarpur gurudwara. But the next day the government lodged a strong protest with Pakistan after Indian diplomats were harassed and denied access to Sikh pilgrims visiting gurudwaras in Pakistan.

Vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu will lay foundation stone in Dera Baba Nanak on Indian side on November 26. Amarinder will attend the function, in which his political rival Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) will also be a present.

Union minister of state Harsimrat Kaur Badal of the SAD will attend the ceremony on the Pakistan side along with Union urban development minister Hardeep Puri.

First Published: Nov 25, 2018 23:34 IST

India says Pak denying access to Sikh pilgrims

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

India says Pak denying access to Sikh pilgrims

The fact that pro-Khalistani posters, banners and slogans were raised near the holy shrines – Gurdawara Nanakana Sahib and Gurdawara Sacha Sauda – only added to India’s anger.

INDIA Updated: Nov 24, 2018 00:01 IST

HT correspondent
HT correspondent
Hindustan Times
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India on Friday lodged a strong protest with Pakistan after Indian diplomats were harassed and denied access to Indian Sikh pilgrims visiting the neighbouring country to mark the start of celebrations of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, which falls next year.(PTI)

India on Friday lodged a strong protest with Pakistan after Indian diplomats were harassed and denied access to Indian Sikh pilgrims visiting the neighbouring country to mark the start of celebrations of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, which falls next year.

The fact that pro-Khalistani posters, banners and slogans were raised near the holy shrines – Gurdawara Nanakana Sahib and Gurdawara Sacha Sauda – only added to India’s anger.

The efforts to “promote secessionist tendencies” to undermine India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is of “grave concern,” the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said in New Delhi.

Refused access and prevented from entering the shrines, Indian diplomats returned to Islamabad without performing their diplomatic and consular duties vis-a-vis Indian pilgrims, the MEA said. This is the third time in a row that Indian diplomats in Pakistan have been harassed and not allowed to meet Sikh pilgrims citing security reasons, it said.

The spat came just a day after New Delhi and Pakistan decided to develop a corridor on their respective sides of the border to let Sikh pilgrims visit the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur on the banks of river Ravi in Pakistan. The incident is an indication of the fragile relationship between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

“It is not surprising that this happened. Pakistan is using Khalistan issue like before. Now, of course, with elements from Canada and the UK, Pakistan is trying to rekindle the issue. Pakistan provides support to these people in the gurdwaras, then prevents our diplomats from getting access to the gurdwaras and pilgrims,” said Kanwal Sibal, former foreign secretary.

Recently, in Amritsar – another holy site for the Sikh faith – grenades were launched at a religious congregation, killing three people and injuring several others.

Later, investigations by the Punjab police showed the grenades were Pakistani-made. The attack, Punjab police said, had been instigated by Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and leftover pro-Khalistan elements sheltered by Pakistan.

Interestingly, among those who prevented Indian diplomats was the controversial figure Gopal Singh Chawla, who has earlier been seen with Hafiz Sayeed of the Jammat-Ud-Dawa who is wanted in India for several terror strikes, including the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror strikes in which 166 people were killed and over 300 were injured.

“India has today lodged a strong protest with the government of Pakistan that despite having been granted prior travel permission by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, the Consular officials of the High Commission of India in Islamabad were harassed and denied access on November 21 and 22 at Gurudwara Nankana Sahib and Gurudwara Sacha Sauda,” the MEA said in a statement.

New Delhi also said that “Pakistan has been called upon to take all measures to not allow its territory to be used for any hostile propaganda and support for secessionist tendencies against India in keeping with the commitments made under the Simla Agreement, 1972 and endorsed in the Lahore Declaration, 1999.”.

The Indian pilgrims are visiting Pakistan under a bilateral protocol.

“Pakistan has been reminded that such actions are not in consonance with the stated intentions of Pakistan to facilitate the visits of Indian Sikh pilgrims, especially as we commemorate the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji,” the MEA said.

The MEA called the denial of access an attempt to deflect attention from Pakistan’s violation of international legal instruments and conventions like the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Pakistan has been reminded that this is in contrast to the treatment meted out to their high commissioner and the consular officials in New Delhi who have been provided full access to meet the Pakistani pilgrims who are currently in India on a pilgrimage to Kalyar Sharif, the MEA said.

First Published: Nov 23, 2018 23:31 IST