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Indian govt's decision to open Kartarpur crossing is 'victory of peace': information minister

Updated November 22, 2018

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Sikh yatrees will be able to visit Baba Guru Nanak's shrine without a visa after the opening of the Kartarpur crossing. — File
Sikh yatrees will be able to visit Baba Guru Nanak's shrine without a visa after the opening of the Kartarpur crossing. — File

Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday welcomed the Indian cabinet's announcement to commence the construction of the Kartarpur corridor, calling it a "victory of peace".

"It is a step towards the right direction and we hope such steps will encourage voice of reasons and tranquillity on both sides of the border," he said via Twitter.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan had already informed India of its decision to open the Kartarpur corridor for Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary. "PM Imran Khan will break ground on Nov 28; we welcome the Sikh community to Pakistan for this auspicious occasion," added Qureshi.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet decided today to develop the corridor that will enable Sikh pilgrims to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, located in Kartarpur, Narowal district without a visa, the Times of India reported.

The corridor will connect Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab's Gurdaspur to Kartarpur in Pakistan's Narowal district where the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib — the shrine of revered saint Baba Guru Nanak — is situated, according to the publication.

Take a look: The legacy of Guru Nanak lives on in four historic gurdwaras in Punjab

Earlier today, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal had said the government will soon announce "good news about the opening of Kartarpur crossing".

In August, Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had told Indian politician Navjot Singh Sidhu that Pakistan would open the Kartarpur crossing "when [the Sikh community] celebrates the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Nanak", when the latter had visited Islamabad for Prime Minister Imran Khan's oath-taking ceremony. The 550th birth anniversary of the revered Sikh figure is next year.

In September, Chaudhry, in an interview to Hindustan Times, reiterated the offer saying that "[the government] wants to formalise the informal proposal the Pakistan army chief made to Sidhu".

"This is an issue of the ordinary people, Sikhs and other Indian pilgrims, and an issue of faith," the information minister had said in a phone interview. "They shouldn’t suffer and we want to formalise the informal proposal the Pakistan army chief made to Sidhu."

On the Pakistani side, various proposals have been discussed and announcements made since the Musharraf era, but lack of interest by the Indian side has kept the proposals confined to cold storage.

Thousands of Sikh devotees from India visit Pakistan every year to celebrate the birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak. This year — for the 549th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak — the Pakistan embassy in New Delhi issued over 3,500 visas to Sikh pilgrims who wished to attend the celebrations that will last for more than a week.

'You're a gem'

Sidhu took to Twitter to thank Prime Minister Khan for announcing the opening of the Kartarpur corridor.

"Thank you @ImranKhanPTI Bhai, we welcome the positive step, it means the world to us," he wrote, addressing Khan. "You’re a gem! This is a great service to mankind. Kudos to you!"

He had earlier welcomed the Indian cabinet's decision to develop the corridor, saying the move will "build bridges, burn animosity and will act like a soothing balm for [the] two neighbouring countries".