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Qureshi, Sushma in ‘war of tweets’ over Kartarpur

December 03, 2018

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FOREIGN Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and 
his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj
FOREIGN Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj

ISLAMABAD: Days after the foundation stone of Kartarpur corridor was laid by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj got involved in a ‘war of tweets’, accusing each other of using the occasion for political gains.

The latest spat between the two sides started when Indian minister for external affairs Sushma Swaraj showed her displeasure over Mr Qureshi’s remarks that PM Khan had bowled India a “googly” by taking the initiative of opening the Kartarpur border connecting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Narowal district to Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district.

Ms Swaraj through her official Twitter account alleged that Mr Qureshi’s remarks had exposed that Pakistan had no respect for the Sikh sentiments and was doing it all for politics. “Mr Foreign Minister of Pakistan — your ‘googly’ remarks in a dramatic manner has exposed none but you. This shows that you have no respect for Sikh sentiments. You only play ‘googlies’,” she tweeted.

Pakistani, Indian FMs accuse each other of using corridor opening for ‘political gains’

Through another tweet, Ms Swaraj tried to downplay the participation of the two Indian ministers in the ceremony in Narowal district, claiming that the two Sikh ministers had gone to attend the ceremony as they wanted to offer prayers at the Gurdwara.

“Let me explain to you that we were not trapped by your ‘googlies’. Our two Sikh ministers went to Kartarpur Sahib to offer prayers in the Holy Gurdwara,” Ms Swaraj wrote on Twitter, prompting a response from Mr Qureshi.

Using the same social networking platform, Mr Qureshi termed Ms Swaraj’s comments a “deliberate attempt” to “mislead” the Sikh community. He said that Pakistan had taken this initiative in “good faith”.

“Dragging my comment towards ‘Sikh sentiments’ is a deliberate attempt to misrepresent and mislead. What I said was strictly with reference to bilateral interaction with the Indian government. We have deep respect for Sikh sentiments and no amount of distortions or controversies would change it,” responded the minister hours after Ms Swaraj’s tweet went viral on social media and in journalistic circles.

“In deference to the long-standing desires of our Sikh brethren, we decided to open the Kartarpur corridor. We have taken this historic initiative in good faith and will carry it forward in good faith,” declared Mr Qureshi in his second tweet.

Highlighting performance of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government in office at a special event organised in Islamabad on Nov 29, Mr Qureshi had termed the opening of the Kartarpur corridor a “googly” bowled by the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. According to him, the move compelled the Indian government to send its two ministers to Pakistan to attend the groundbreaking ceremony.

Initially, the Pakistan government had invited Ms Swaraj, Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu besides 17 Indian journalists to the Kartarpur corridor groundbreaking ceremony. While Ms Swaraj and Amarinder Singh excused themselves from attending the ceremony, the Indian foreign minister nominated India’s Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri to attend the event.

The two ministers and Indian Punjab minister for local government and tourism Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is also a cricketer-turned-politician, visited Pakistan to attend the ceremony which was largely attended by the Sikh community members, media persons and diplomats from home and abroad. Also, Pakistan’s federal ministers, Punjab chief minister and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa attended the historic event.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal sprinkled sacred water from Golden Temple at the groundbreaking venue and even delivered a speech, terming it “a historic day” for the Sikh community. The minister said she was very happy to become part of this event and see the place where Baba Guru Nanak had spent his last years. She said many Sikhs, who continued to see the Darbar through binoculars, would finally be able to come over for the first time in their lives.

Asserting that the wall of hatred between Pakistan and India could also fall just like the fall of Berlin Wall, Ms Badal said this peace corridor would go a long way in subsiding the tension between the countries as well as bring joy and peace to the people of both countries.

Ms Badal had also requested the Pakistan government to launch a coin or postal stamp in memory of the Karatarpur peace corridor.

Speaking at the ceremony, PM Khan had announced that his government and the army wanted a ‘civilised relationship’ with India, declaring that Islamabad would move two steps forward if New Delhi took one step, stating that only strong and determined leadership on both sides of the border could resolve the issues.

Acknowledging that hundreds and thousands of people have been killed in both countries, the prime minister said both sides had committed mistakes and the time had come to mend relations. Mr Khan had also cited examples of France and Germany which fought many wars but eventually came closer for the welfare of their people.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2018

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