A day after Pakistan said it will invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that New Delhi will not be responding to any such invite.
At a press conference in Hyderabad on Wednesday, 28 November, Swaraj said that India will not participate in SAARC unless Pakistan stops terrorism.
“We are not responding to it (invitation by Pakistan for SAARC summit) positively because as I said unless and until Pakistan stops terror activities in India, there will be no dialogue. So we will not participate in SAARC,” the EAM said.
Swaraj’s message came after Pakistan Foreign Office on Tuesday said that Islamabad will invite PM Modi to the SAARC Summit.
The SAARC Summit, which was to be held in Pakistan in November 2016, was cancelled after India boycotted the event, triggering a pullout by Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan.
New Delhi took the decision following the 18 September 2016 Uri attack by Pak-based terrorists. The Summit was subsequently postponed indefinitely.
But while announcing the decision, Foreign Office spokesman Mohammed Faisal added, “We fought wars with India, relations cannot be fixed quickly.”
The announcement came amid signals of a thaw in the relationship with Islamabad’s decision to construct the Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate the travel of members of Indian Sikhs to the Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.
Swaraj, however, said that while she welcomed Pakistan’s decision to construct the Kartarpur corridor, the decision will not be enough for bilateral talks between the two countries.
“For many years the Indian Government had been asking for Kartarpur corridor, only now Pakistan responded positively. It doesn’t mean the bilateral dialogue will start because of this, terror and talks can’t go together,” Swaraj said.
The EAM had declined Islamabad’s invite to witness the ground-breaking ceremony for the corridor and deputed two Union ministers to represent India.
Swaraj said she could not attend the corridor ceremony in Pakistan as she was tied up with a visit to Telangana.
She recalled that she had initiated the process to resume dialogue with Pakistan in 2015 but that was followed by the Pathankot attack by Pakistan-based terrorists.
On Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s visit to Lahore for the corridor foundation-stone laying ceremony, she said it was for the Congress party to react to it. Sidhu has gone there in his personal capacity despite Chief Minister Amarinder Singh advising him against undertaking the visit.