Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh spoke exclusively to Republic TV's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami on Tuesday, addressing a range of important issues concerning the state of Punjab, relations with neighbour Pakistan against the backdrop of the Kartarpur corridor's and his Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. Speaking extensively on the issues on which Congress has been maintained a deafening silence, here's a leader setting the agenda for his own party to follow.
Hailing the approval for the Kartarpur corridor a year before the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, Captain Amarinder said that this was a request that had been pending for a long time
"I don't know what negotiations went on with the Pakistan government, but this request for the corridor had been pending for a long time. I had spoken to then-President Musharraf about in 2004. Since we've come into government in the state, I've spoken to PM Modi and Sushma Swaraj. We're all happy about it. It's a great occasion that this is happening. Sadly, the Pakistani Army continues its viciousness in our country."
Tearing down the Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, the Punjab CM warned Pakistan and the ISI that his state isn't their playground.
"They (Pakistan) must understand that Punjab isn't their playground. We've busted 19 modules of terrorists, recovered 77 weapons and kilos of ammo. Grenades and such have been confiscated. Innocents have been killed. They killed 3 of our young people and injured 19 others", he said, raising the terror attack in Amritsar last week.
The Punjab Chief Minister maintained his line when it came to the remarks and actions of his minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has, over the space of the last few months, travelled to Pakistan to hug the Pak Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, repeatedly credited himself and Pak PM Imran Khan for the Kartarpur corridor, and also, as recently as Tuesday, raised Congress' politics over the Rafale deal on the soil of Pakistan.
On Sidhu Pakistan visit:
"The entire cabinet has today supported what I've said. Entire Punjab is supporting. Sidhu hasn't gone in his official capacity. He asked me if he could go in a private capacity".
On Sidhu-Bajwa hug:
Speaking further about the actions of Sidhu, Captain Amarinder Singh also brought up the Pak Army chief Bajwa and said, "I don't know why he has a habit of doing such things. He's been on camera so often, he says these things. I said on his hug to Bajwa -- I told him this is not your business to do this, because every day we lose soldiers. Even today we lost a Jawan. These things are happening all the time. It's Bajwa giving the orders. And then he goes and hugs this sort of a character."
The Punjab CM contrasted the actions of Sidhu with his own when he had gone to Pakistan while Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister of India:
"They ask all sorts of things. But I stuck to India's policies".
Adding further clarity on his views on Sidhu, Captain Amarinder said, "He gets carried away by these occasions. He shouldn't speak in such a manner. He's an Indian by the way -- Indians shouldn't encourage generals who attack India.
On being asked about Pakistan's two-faced approach to the Kartarpur corridor, especially on the free reign given to pro-Khalistan separatists to peddle their agendas, the Punjab CM said:
"Absolutely (we should be worried). Sikhs for Justice, Khalistan 2020 -- who are backing this? It's a Lt Col of ISI selling tickets to this. This is being engineered by these people (ISI). 'Happy PHD' (a separatist face) sitting in Lahore backed by ISI. We're in touch with the government of India and intelligence agencies over this."
Asked about whether his views are also shared by his party, or whether they are independent, he said:
"I say what I feel. It's not impinging on party discipline. Congress doesn't want this business in Punjab and for Pakistan Army to have an influence in any state. One has one's view, and so long as you don't cross party policy, you can speak what you wish. I have my feelings very strongly because I've been a soldier. I've had a lot of friends killed in action, and the bond makes you feel differently."