Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh Monday said Indian would not allow ISI-backed forces, such as the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), to disturb its harmony and stability, even as he advocated peace and friendship with Pakistan to enable both countries to move forward towards development and progress. “We are hoping to achieve friendship and peace with our neighbours. India has been through enough and Pakistan has been through even worse, so I don’t know why we can’t get together and sort this matter out,” Amarinder Singh said.
He was addressing the diaspora at Birmingham Town Hall Sunday as part of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations Guru Nanak Dev in the UK. Some members of the SFJ, banned by India for its pro-Khalistani ‘Referendum 2020’ propaganda, protested outside the venue.
The Punjab CM branded the outfit as an “entirely ISI (Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence] operation”.
“There is no ideological element, this is hard core terrorism and they have to be dealt with like that. The government of India has banned them, which is good,” he said.
Later, in a statement issued by his office in Chandigarh, Amarinder described SFJ’s Gurpatwant Singh Pannu as a fraud, “operating under the directions of ISI”. He said Pannu’s sole motive was to divide Sikhs, and India, to promote the ISI agenda. Referring to the terror modules busted in Punjab in the past couple of years, along with large-scale arrests and seizure of weapons, he said these had exposed SFJ’s intentions.
Earlier, citing the Guru Nanak’s philosophy of oneness of God, the CM underlined the need to rise above religion and caste to protect the future and facilitate the development of Punjab and its people. He said Guru Nanak had indicated 550 years ago about the global problems like pollution and water scarcity.
His government, Amarinder said, would continue to disseminate the message of Guru Nanak, who had taught the importance of protecting the nature through his ideology of ‘Pawan Guru, Paani Pita, Maata Dharat’. The decision to set up the Guru Nanak chair in 11 universities, including one in Iran, was aimed at researching the Guru’s travels and philosophy so that the same could be disseminated effectively for the good of humanity, he added.
The CM sought the Indian diaspora’s help and support in enabling the industrial growth of Punjab. “I need investment in my state. We are no longer just an agricultural state. We have surplus, all my godowns are full of rice and wheat with no space left. Punjab has to deviate from this and go into industry, so our youngsters have new jobs,” he said.
Reaching out to UK businesses to participate in the Progressive Punjab Investors Summit on December 5-6, Singh flagged a number of industrial hubs attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) in the state, such as Chandigarh, Ludhiana and Moga, as a result of an investor friendly single-window offer for investors.
In a message to the Indian diaspora keen on investing in the state, he said: “Anyone from the diaspora who is interested in investing in Punjab can get in touch with one of my dedicated officers from the Secretariat, Jatinder Jorwal [Additional Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister]. He has been nominated to be their port of call. I have also requested the Indian High Commissioner to the UK [Ruchi Ghanashyam] to assist with this process. We welcome the diaspora to come in and invest,” he added.
Citing the Kartarpur Corridor as a beginning towards better relations between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Amarinder called on Pakistan to re-think the service fee charged from pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. He also called for a re-think on the requirement of passports to make it easier for pilgrims.
“All these religious shrines belong to every community. We don’t stop anyone coming to our side, whether it is to Ajmer Sharif or Nizamuddin dargah…This business of charging money for us to pay our respects is not on…,” he said.
The senior Congress leader, who concluded his UK visit on Sunday, said he believes the Aadhar as a proof of identity document should be acceptable to facilitate access for the poor who cannot afford to acquire passports. “It’s only going across a corridor, which has now become a sort of no-man’s land. When a visa is not required, then any identity proof should be fine,” he said.
While expressing his gratitude to both Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Imran Khan for taking a step towards peace with the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, Singh expressed the hope that it could lead to further moves towards peace.
The event, organised by the Consulate General of India in Birmingham, was attended by scores of British Sikhs and diaspora representatives and included a performance by BJP MP and Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans. “I have come to the UK before as an entertainer but feel especially privileged to be a part of these anniversary celebrations by the grace of Guru Nanak,” said the singer-politician as he performed as series of devotional hymns on stage.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines