Don’t read much into Swaraj missing Kartarpur ground-breaking: VK Singh

Washington: Minister of State for External Affairs, General (retd) VK Singh, cleared the air surrounding External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj not attending the ground-breaking ceremony of Kartarpur corridor, a new border entry and road to allow pilgrims from India to visit a Gurudwara in Pakistan.

Emphasising that New Delhi is committed to making the corridor functional at the earliest, Singh said, “Sushma Swaraj has reasons which must be delinked from it. She is committed because of elections and health issues. To read too much into it is wrong. India is committed to ensure Kartarpur corridor comes up fast and would like Pakistan to cooperate.”

Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is one of the holiest shrines where Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life. With the partition of India in 1947, the holy place got into Pakistan’s control.

In a landmark decision, on the eve of Guru Nanak Gurupurab, India on Thursday approved building and development of Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district to India-Pakistan International Border.

On Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi invited Swaraj and other Indian ministers for the ground-breaking ceremony on the Pakistani side on November 28.

Hours later, Swaraj expressed her inability to attend the event, citing “prior commitments including election campaign.”

“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.

In September, India called off the planned meeting between Swaraj and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly New York after three security personnel in Jammu and Kashmir were kidnapped and brutally killed.

General (retd) Singh, who is in the United States to launch the ‘Passport Seva’ programme at India’s Consulate, reiterated India’s stand on talks with Pakistan.

“It was made clear by our Prime Minister to (then Pakistani Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif that creation of an environment conducive to peace is his responsibility. If you are going to aid terrorism it is not possible to talk. For four-and-a-half years we have adhered to it, it’s the most uniform policy we have followed,” Singh said.