Attempt to misrepresent & mislead: Pak minister hits back at Swaraj for furore over ‘googly’ remarks

Islamabad: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has strongly defended his comments that were met with anger from his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj and other ministers of Modi government.

The foreign minister took to Twitter on Sunday to respond to criticism launched by  Indian government over his reference to cricket terminology googly in the wake of India’s refusal to resume bilateral dialogue with Pakistan.

“Dragging my comment towards “Sikh sentiments” is a deliberate attempt to misrepresent & mislead. What I said was strictly with ref to bilateral interaction with the Indian Govt,” he wrote on Twitter.

“We have deep respect for Sikh sentiments and no amount of distortions or controversies would change it.”

Qureshi said that the Kartarpur border was opened in line with the long-standing desires of Sikh brethren.

“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,” he added.

The exchange started after Qureshi, a day after the Kartarpur corridor ground-breaking ceremony on November 28, said Prime Minister Imran Khan had put India in a conundrum with the move to open the route to the Sikh shrine. PM Imran had “bowled a googly at India by opening the Kartarpur border corridor”, Qureshi said.

Two days later, on December 1, Swaraj shot back, saying that India was not trapped by Pakistan’s googlies. “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.

“Our two Sikh Ministers went to Kartarpur Sahib to offer prayers in the Holy Gurudwara,” the Indian external affairs minister tweeted later, referring to Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri making the trip across the border.

Pakistan has spoken about the “relentless negative propaganda campaign being waged by a section of the Indian media” against its initiative of opening the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims. Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said Indian media’s coverage attributing the opening of the visa-free corridor to any other motive is “purely malicious”.

The Kartarpur Corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district.

The corridor, expected to be completed in six months, will facilitate visa-free travel of Indian Sikh pilgrims who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur