The following is a press release from the office of the Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, confirming what he said to Republic TV's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami in an exclusive interview on Tuesday -- specifically that he had asked Sidhu to not to go Pakistan, but allowed it as Sidhu sought to make a personal visit:
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday said he had asked Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to reconsider his decision to go to Pakistan for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor but had acceded to his request for permission to go since he did not believe in stopping anyone from undertaking a personal visit.
In an informal chat with mediapersons here, the Chief Minister said Sidhu was in Madhya Pradesh when he told the minister to reconsider his decision. “Sidhu told me he had already committed himself to going. When I informed him of the stand I had taken on the issue, he said it was his personal visit but he would get back to me. But I did not hear from him,” said the Chief Minister, adding that the minister sent him a request for going and he approved it.
“I do not stop anyone from going anywhere on a private visit. It (Sidhu’s trip) is not an official visit,” said the Chief Minister.
Standing by his own decision to decline Pakistan’s visit, the Chief Minister said he believed in saying what he felt. “I have strong feelings on the issue. I have a strong bond with the Army and cannot stand seeing my people killed,” he asserted.
The Congress, he said, had always stood against terrorism, and would never allow anyone to destroy the peace of the country or its people.
Terming the situation in Pakistan as very uncertain and fluid, Captain Amarinder said nobody knew who was running the government there or what was happening in that country. “If Imran Khan is running the government then he should rein (the Pak army and the terrorist groups). If he cannot do that then he obviously has nothing in his hands,” said the Chief Minister.
“My message is very clear – don’t mess with Punjab,” declared Captain Amarinder, reiterating his warning to Pakistan against any attempt to disrupt India’s peace.
Vowing not to allow terrorism to return to Punjab at any cost, the Chief Minister said the times had changed now – Punjab then had a police force of less than 20000, but now has 81000 police personnel to keep it safe and protected. However, if things do get out of hand, then there is the Indian Army, which is well equipped and prepared to counter any threat, said Capt Amarinder, adding that the Army will not allow them (Pakistan) to create trouble in India.
On the issue of the Kartarpur Corridor, the Chief Minister made it clear that every Punjabi was very happy with it and there was no question of it being used by terrorists to infiltrate into India. No one need worry about that as there would be high level of security in the corridor, he added.
Pointing out that the issue of the corridor was raised by Dr Manmohan Singh on the 400th anniversary of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and he himself had raised the issue with Pakistani leaders Parvez Musharraf and Parvez Elahi, Capt Amarinder said he was completely in favour of the Corridor as he wanted peace, backed by increase in trade, with Pakistan.
It was the killing of innocent Indians and Indian soldiers that he could not tolerate, said the Chief Minister, recalling that Kargil had happened during peace talks with then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Pakistan could not trusted in the current circumstances, said Captain Amarinder.
Asked about the Referendum 2020, the Chief Minister said the Sikhs For Justice legal advisor GS Panu was just a stooge of the ISI and the organisation was being funded and managed by ISI. It has no takers in India and is being propagated by a handful of anti-socials, he added.
To another question, Capt Amarinder said it was wrong of Akali leader and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal to rake up the 1984 issue on the historic religious occasion of the foundation stone laying of Kartarpur Corridor at Dera Baba Nanak yesterday. The Akalis, he said, were in the habit of exploiting religion for political gains. But the people of Punjab were no longer willing to be misled by their propaganda, he added.
The Chief Minister was of the opinion that the Congress MLAs were rightly aggrieved about the Badals’ names being on the foundation stone plaque. The Government of India is making the road and protocol prohibited the inclusion of Badals’ names, he added.