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FM Qureshi welcomes India's decision to send ministers for Kartarpur ceremony

Updated November 25, 2018

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FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi says India's response to Pakistan's peace initiative was positive. — File photo
FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi says India's response to Pakistan's peace initiative was positive. — File photo

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday welcomed India's decision to send two of its ministers to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur border crossing, Radio Pakistan reported.

The foreign minister said the Indian response to the peace initiative taken up by Pakistan has been positive.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan will perform the groundbreaking of the 4-km-long corridor connecting Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district with Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan. The corridor will provide visa-free access to the Indian Sikh pilgrims to the shrine.

Lying dormant due to the tense relations between the two countries since 1988, the proposal to construct the corridor providing visa-free access to Sikh pilgrims had been renewed by Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa in August this year.

A view of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Narowal. —APP
A view of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Narowal. —APP

Earlier, the Pakistan government had invited Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu besides 17 Indian journalists to the Nov 28 Kartarpur corridor groundbreaking ceremony.

The invitation was accepted with "unalloyed joy" by Sidhu, who termed the development as "historic". Who added that he had lodged an application with the Ministry of External Affairs for permission to attend the groundbreaking event.

"This day will indeed break ground," Sidhu said in his letter. "As our two nations take this first step, the Kartarpur Spirit can make pilgrims of us all, venturing out on a journey that breaks the barriers of history and opens the borders of the heart and the mind."

Meanwhile, the chief minister of Indian Punjab thanked Qureshi for the invitation but declined it in a letter addressed to the foreign minister.

Swaraj had earlier excused herself from attending the ceremony, citing "prior commitments" but had announced that India's Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Shri Hardeep Singh Puri will attend the ceremony in Kartarpur Sahib as representatives of the Indian government.

In a late night tweet on Saturday, Swaraj had said, “We hope that the Government of Pakistan will expedite construction of the corridor in order to ensure that our citizens can pay their respects at the Gurudwara Karatpur Sahib using the corridor as soon as possible.”

Qureshi expressed confidence that Kartarpur Corridor would attract members of Sikh community to Pakistan from across the world including the United States and the United Kingdom.

He said the Sikh community will be greeted here amid sentiments of love and would take back positive image about Pakistan and its people.

While the idea was shared by the army chief with the Congress leader and Indian Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu during his visit to Pakistan in August for attending Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony, the Pakistan government announced the date for the groundbreaking ceremony of the corridor only this week after the Indian Union cabinet agreed to avail the offer of the passageway in view of the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of the Sikh faith, Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, next year.

According to the proposal, the Indian government will construct and develop the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the border, while Pakistan will build the other part of the corridor connecting the border to the Gurdwara in the Kartarpur Sahib area of Narowal district.