As Indian delegates attended the Kartarpur corridor groundbreaking ceremony in Narowal on Wednesday, Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj announced that India will not attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) conference if it is held in Pakistan.
She brushed off any possibility of improvement in relations between India and Pakistan, despite the opening of the Kartarpur crossing. "Until and unless Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India, there will be no dialogue and we will not participate in Saarc [conference]," asserted Swaraj.
Owing to India's refusal to attend, Pakistan will not be able to convene the event for the third year now. Participation of all member states is mandatory for the convening of a Saarc summit.
Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had hinted at opening the Kartarpur border on the occasion of Baba Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary next year for Sikh pilgrims when he met cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu during the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Khan in August.
However, while talking to journalists in Indian Hyderabad, Swaraj claimed that India had been "asking for the [opening] of the Kartarpur corridor" for the past 20 years.
"For the first time, Pakistan has responded positively to this," she added.
The proposal for the corridor has been on the table since 1988 — when Pakistan and India agreed in principle to construct a corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in India to Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan — but tense relations between the two countries prevented progress on the plan.
The opening of the Kartarpur crossing will enable Sikh pilgrims to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, located in Kartarpur, Narowal district without a visa. 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.