Chandigarh, Nov 25 (IANS) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday declined Pakistan Foreign Minister’s invitation to attend the foundation stone-laying ceremony for the Kartarpur Corridor in Pakistan, citing continued terror attacks in the state.
In a letter to Pakistan Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the Chief Minister welcomed the historic occasion, which he described as the cherished desire of the Sikhs around the world.
He, however, expressed his inability to be present at the occasion for two reasons.
“Firstly, not a day passes when Indian soldiers are not killed or wounded on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. Rather than moving towards normalcy, these incidents are escalating,” Amarinder said in his letter.
Amarinder pointed out that a few months ago, his battalion lost one Major and two jawans in an ambush laid on the Indian side of the LoC, well within the Indian territory.
“Secondly, the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) has started its nefarious activities within Punjab and since his government was sworn in, in March 2017, the state had neutralised 19 ISI-armed and controlled modules, apprehended 81 terrorists and recovered 79 weapons, in addition to numerous grenades of the HG-84 type made in Pakistan’s Ordnance factories, with Austrian know-how, along with seizure of some IEDs,” the Chief Minister pointed out.
“The last attack was in Amritsar last Sunday, on a peaceful religious congregation in one of our villages, in which 3 men were killed and 19, including women and children, were wounded,” Amarinder said, adding that both the terrorists had since been caught.
“I hope the Prime Minister (Imran Khan) will understand that under these circumstances, it will not be possible for me to be present in Pakistan on this historic occasion, despite the fact that paying my respects at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib has always been my cherished dream which will hopefully be fulfilled once these hostilities and killings are stopped,” he said.
The proposed corridor will link Gurdwara Sahib Kartarpur to Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab. Guru Nanak Dev is believed to have spent the last 18 years of his life at Kartarpur Sahib.
The Chief Minister recalled his visit to Pakistan, when he had paid his respects at Gurdwara Nankana Sahib and Gurdwara Panja Sahib where his father, Maharaja Yadvindra Singh, had reconstructed Gurdwara Panja Sahib in 1932.
“As you will see from the stone laid at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, it was my grandfather Maharaja Bhupindra Singh who carried out flood protection measures from 1920 to 1929 to protect our Gurdwara which was being ravaged by floods in the river Ravi each year,” he wrote.
“A visit to Kartarpur Sahib has been a long cherished dream, and I hope once normalcy between our two countries is restored, I will be able to do so, when the corridor is complete,” Amarinder said, recalling his own meeting with Qureshi during his Pakistan visit earlier.
The Chief Minister expressed hope that the Pakistani Prime Minister “will do all he can to bring our two countries together on the road to peace and friendship.”
Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has also been invited for the function on Nov 28, has said that he would go to Pakistan for the historic occasion.
The foundation stone of the Kartarpur Corridor project on the Indian side will be laid near Dera Baba Nanak town in Gurdaspur district on Monday by Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.