New Delhi: In what is being seen as a categorical assertion of Indian stand and the Modi government’s crystal clear message to Islamabad, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday virtually ruled out Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting Pakistan for the SAARC Summit.
“We have to take the big picture,” Ms Swaraj told reporters at Hyderabad referring to Pakistan’s double standards on terror vis-a-vis reviving stalled dialogues with India.
“That indication is already being given,” she said in reference to media reports that Pakistan government will be inviting Prime Minister Modi for the SAARC Summit.
“But…we are not responding to it positively. Until and unless Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India there will be no dialogue and we will not participate,” said Ms Swaraj, who skipped the Kartarpur function in Pakistan on Wednesday citing election campaign prior commitment in Telangana.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will lay the foundation stone of the much talked about Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Sahib corridor on Wednesday. Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan located across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine, was established by the Sikh Guru in 1522.
Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri – both Sikhs – will attend the ground-breaking ceremony of Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Sahib corridor.
Media reports in Pakistan on Tuesday said that addressing a conference in Islamabad, Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesman Mohammad Faisal had recalled that Pak PM Imran Khan in his victory speech had said that if India took one step forward, Pakistan would take two.
“Prime Minister Modi will be invited to Pakistan for the SAARC summit,” he was quoted as saying.
India has somehow seen as being instrumental in ‘isolating’ Pakistan in South Asia as the 2016 SAARC Summit slated to be hosted in Islamabad was called off after a deadly terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, after New Delhi expressed its inability to participate in the SAARC Summit due to “prevailing circumstances, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to participate.
“Kartarpur Corridor and talks are different things,” she said categorically.
Answering questions, Ms Swaraj said she herself had in the past favoured Indo-Pak talks and had also visited Pakistan. However, she lamented in the same breadth that the “response” from the western neighbour came in the form of attack in Uri and Pathankot.
“I had already visited Pakistan and it was me only who started the comprehensive bilateral dialogue, but what happened after that Pathankot, what happened after that Uri,” she said.
BJP sources have made it clear on Sunday that the government of India has ‘not yet taken’ Kartarpur corridor development as a “diplomatic turnaround episode” in Indo-Pak relations.
“This is a socio-political and religious issue. We do not see it as any diplomatic breakthrough. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is not going for the groundbreaking ceremony on November 28,” a BJP source has told UNI here.
“By deputing Sikh leaders for the ceremony, the government of India has kept it informal and religious and thus Islamabad’s efforts to steal any diplomatic limelight has been exposed,” a BJP leader said.
A former diplomat, who is considered a keen observer of developments in Indo-Pak relations, has said that the Kartarpur Corridor package “has hangover” of the past and politics.
“With elections approaching fast in India, things may not appear that easy to revive Indo-Pak talks,” she said.
The Modi government has shown continuous ‘reluctance’ to revive formal talks with Pakistan saying Islamabad should take concrete and convincing steps to fight terrorism in all its manifestations.