Sushma declines Qureshi’s invite for Kartarpur groundbreaking | Pakistan Today

Sushma declines Qureshi’s invite for Kartarpur groundbreaking

–Indian foreign minister cites ‘prior commitments, including election campaign’ for not being able to attend historic ceremony

–Ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and HS Puri to represent India during Nov 28 ceremony, tweets Sushma

–UAE to invest $20 billion in Pakistan, says FM Qureshi

ISLAMABAD: Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Saturday turned down Pakistan’s invitation to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of Kartarpur corridor owing to “prior commitments”;  however, she said two Indian ministers will represent the country at the event in her stead.

Hours after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi extended an invitation to his Indian counterpart, the latter took to Twitter and excused herself from attending the ceremony while expressing gratitude over the offer.

In a series of tweets, Sushma said she will be unable to visit Pakistan on November 28, the date scheduled for the ceremony, adding that ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and HS Puri will represent India when Prime Minister Imran Khan breaks down at the Kartarpur facilities on Nov 28.

Indian FM Sushma’s communiqué with Pakistani counterpart Qureshi on November 24, 2018

“Since I am unable to travel to Kartarpur Sahib on the scheduled date, Government of India will be represented by my esteemed colleagues Mrs.Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Mr.H.S.Puri,” she tweeted. “I thank HE Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi Foreign Minister of Pakistan for inviting me to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor on the Pakistan side of the international boundary on 28 November 2018.”

The Indian external affairs minister thanked Qureshi for the invitation, hoping that “Pakistan will expedite construction of the corridor in order to ensure that our citizens can pay their respects at the Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor as soon as possible.”

She also advised the Indian media against “spreading disinformation” regarding the refusal.

QURESHI SENDS INVITE:

Earlier in the day, Pakistan, in a formal invitation, asked the Indian foreign minister to be part of the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur border that would facilitate Sikhs’ travel to Pakistan for pilgrimage.

According to a tweet by Qureshi, an invitation has also been sent to Indian Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and  Tourism Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, a cricketer-turned-politician.

“On behalf of Pakistan I have extended an invitation to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj @SushmaSwaraj, Capt Amarinder Singh @capt_amarinder & Navjot Singh Sidhu @sherryontopp to attend the groundbreaking ceremony at #Kartarpura on 28 Nov, 2018. #PakistanKartarpuraSpirit,” FM Qureshi tweeted.

On Thursday, New Delhi accepted an Islamabad offer about building a new border crossing and road connecting their respective Punjab provinces, making it easier for Sikh pilgrims to visit the religious site in Pakistan and opening a door to end bitter Pakistan-India ties.

The corridor will connect Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur to Kartarpur in Pakistan’s Narowal district where the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib — the shrine of revered saint Baba Guru Nanak — is situated.

The Indian move came nearly three months after army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had offered to open the route to facilitate Sikh pilgrims. The COAS told Indian cricketer-turned-politician Sidhu at the inauguration of Prime Minister Imran on August 18 that Pakistan was ready to open the route to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur for Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary.

India’s response to the invitation along with its decision to open the border is being seen as a much-needed thaw in the frosty ties that are marred by cross-border firing, accusations of terror sponsorship among others. If Swaraj had agreed to visit Pakistan, it would have been her first after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) ascent to power.

After India refused to entertain Prime Minister Imran Khan’s offer to initiate the dialogue process and subsequently cancelled a meeting between the two foreign ministers at the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) sessions, tensions between the two countries had touched a new height. However, the new initiative hints at an opportunity for both countries to improve their bitter ties.

VISA-FREE ENTRY:

While addressing a National Assembly session on Friday, the foreign minister said the dialogue was the only way forward towards the resolution of all outstanding disputes with India.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, while briefing the reporters on Saturday, said the federal cabinet has also formally approved the opening of Kartarpur corridor to facilitate the Sikh community of India.

Fawad Chaudhry said a visa-free entry will be provided to Sikh pilgrims from India and a mechanism in this regard is being finalised.

He remarked that opening of Kartarpur corridor is a peace initiative of Pakistan to normalise relations with India because Islamabad wants normalisation of ties with New Delhi to defeat poverty and this endeavor will be pursued with utmost sincerity.

Kartarpur is a small town in district Narowal, 4 km from the Pakistan- India border, where the founder of the Sikh religion, Baba Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life. Subsequently, Gurdwara Darbar Sahab was built at the site on the Pakistan side and Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak in India, which are visited by thousands of Sikhs every year.

INVESTMENT FROM UAE:

In an interview with GNN News, FM Qureshi said the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will invest $20 billion in Pakistan. He said he was confident that such incentives from friendly countries will reduce the country’s dependence on IMF bailout package.

Qureshi said PM Khan told Saudi Arabia that Pakistan will remain neutral in the Yemen conflict which eventually brought a stalemate. Pakistan is ready to mediate in Saudi-Yemen ties, he added.



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