I can’t go to Pakistan when terrorist acts are being carried out here, says Capt. Amarinde...

I can’t go to Pakistan when terrorist acts are being carried out here, says Capt. Amarinder Singh

Punjab CM says the demand was raised even during Manmohan Singh’s term as PM, but Pakistan did not respond then

In a stern speech at Monday’s ceremony to lay the foundation stone for the Kartarpur corridor, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh charged Pakistan with supporting terrorism in Punjab. The speech was a departure from statements by other leaders at the event, including Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, who spoke of the hopes for peace emanating from the corridor. Capt. Amarinder said he was not against the initiative, but would not visit Pakistan until violence ends.

You took direct aim at Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa. Along with your decision not to travel to Pakistan, you appear to be striking a discordant note, out of tune with the way the initiative has been welcomed by others.

I am not striking any note. I am just putting the facts before the people, that it is the Pakistan Army which is spreading terror in India, sending terrorists to Punjab, and I won’t stand for it. We all know that PM Imran Khan can say anything, and we welcome his words, but it is the Army that carries out these operations. 

I also welcomed the Kartarpur corridor. I think it is a good step but I can’t go to Pakistan when terrorist acts are being carried out here. In the past 18 months we have smashed more than 15 terror modules. We have found Kashmiri terrorists in Punjab. How are we expected to tolerate all this? 

But you had visited Pakistan in the past. What has changed now?

Yes, I did visit Pakistan in 2004 for an official visit, but I visited Pakistan under [President] General Musharraf who at the time was ready to talk, and violence had come down. 

As Chief Minister then, I had hosted cricket matches with teams from Pakistan, I had opened up the borders and allowed people to come here. I had gone to Lahore and invited their Punjab CM to visit here. These are different times, however. There is firing at the LoC, there are grenade blasts here, everyday we get more information about terrorist activities. How can we forget all this?

Some say this is about political rivalries: that you are opposing the corridor because the Modi government has okayed the proposal and the Central government is sending two Ministers including the Shiromani Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Badal to Pakistan. Do you think sending the Ministers there is a mistake?

Who says I have opposed the corridor? And to put the facts straight, this is not a Modi government initiative alone. 

During PM Manmohan Singh’s time too, this has been raised but Pakistan had not responded. I myself have raised the demand for the corridor and for access to other shrines. So it is not for any one government to try and take credit for the Kartarpur project. 

Your own Minister, Navjot Singh Sidhu, is also going to Pakistan. Didn’t you try and stop him?

Everyone has to take their own decision. I was invited and I said it wouldn’t be right for me to go, given that I am Chief Minister of a State that is facing terrorism from the other side. But it is for everyone to take their own decision, and that may be his way of thinking. Why should I interfere?

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