Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday night informed Pakistan that she was unable to travel to Kartarpur for opening of the much-publicised corridor and was instead sending two Sikh ministers from the cabinet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In a series of tweets, Swaraj wrote, “I thank HE Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi Foreign Minister of Pakistan for inviting me to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor on the Pakistan side of the International boundary on 28 November 2018. 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.”
Her subsequent tweet read, “We hope that the Government of Pakistan will expedite construction of the corridor in order to ensure that our citizens can pay their respects at the Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor as soon as possible.”
Moments later, Swaraj once again took to Twitter to issue a clarification after journalists began to wrongly interpret her statement. Her first reaction was in response to journalist Nidhi Razdan of NDTV, who had tweeted, “Foreign Minister @SushmaSwaraj declines Pakistan invite for Kartarpur Sahib, cites “prior commitments including election campaign”.”
Taking offence to her tweet, Swaraj wrote, “Please do not spread disinformation. We welcome this proposal and we are sending two Ministers to represent Government of India.”
This prompted Razdan to immediately issue a clarification and delete her original tweet. She wrote, “You missed my subsequent tweet ma’am. Which had the news of the two ministers going. But you’re right, when split up ,the tweets don’t convey the news properly. So have deleted them and posted a new one.”
The union minister accepted Razdan’s clarification and thanked her ‘prompt correction.’
Razdan wasn’t the only journalist Swaraj had taken exception to. India Today’s Simi Pasha too came under the minister’s ire. Pasha had tweeted, “Does anyone else get the sense that Sushma Swaraj doesn’t want to be associated with the Modi Govt & it’s antics anymore?”
Swaraj called her tweet ‘immature’ while terming it a ‘senseless statement.’
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had earlier invited Swaraj for the opening the ceremony, scheduled for 28 November. In his tweet Qureshi had also extended the same invitation to Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and his cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu.
India’s Sikh community have long demanded for a corridor linking India’s border district of Gurdaspur with the historic gurdwara in Kartarpur. The topic recently gained momentum when Sidhu travelled to Pakistan to take part in the swearing in ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan in August. It was around this time when the Pakistani army chief, General Qamar Bajwa, had told Sidhu that Islamabad was keen to open a corridor for Indian pilgrims.
The right-wing media and BJP leaders including colleagues of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had slammed Sidhu for meeting with General Bajwa then. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had later taunted Sidhu, asking him to join the cabinet of Imran Khan.