Islamabad says corridor move signals desire for peace

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NAROWAL: A view of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur. The Gurdwara (left) sits on the place where Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, assembled his disciples after missionary travels. Guru Nanak died here on Sept 22, 1539. (Right) An Indian Sikh devotee offers prayers at Dera Baba Nanak, Gurdaspur, while looking through binoculars towards the Kartarpur Gurdwara.—APP / AFP
NAROWAL: A view of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur. The Gurdwara (left) sits on the place where Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, assembled his disciples after missionary travels. Guru Nanak died here on Sept 22, 1539. (Right) An Indian Sikh devotee offers prayers at Dera Baba Nanak, Gurdaspur, while looking through binoculars towards the Kartarpur Gurdwara.—APP / AFP

ISLAMABAD: Terming its decision to open Kartarpur border a sign of sincerity towards restoration of peace in South Asian region, Islamabad on Sunday welcomed New Delhi’s decision to send two ministers to the groundbreaking ceremony of the corridor that will provide visa-free access to the Indian Sikh pilgrims to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi termed India’s response to the peace initiative taken by Pakistan “positive” though Indian Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh also declined to attend the event a day after Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj had announced that her two colleagues would attend the groundbreaking ceremony in her place.

Prime Minister Imran Khan will perform the groundbreaking of the four-kilometre-long corridor, connecting Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district with Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, on Nov 28.

Qureshi terms India’s response positive

Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that Pakistan through its conduct had once again made it clear to the world to see as to who stood for peace in South Asia and which force was not sincere. “Prime Minister Imran Khan has clearly shown that Pakistan stood for peace in the region,” said the minister through his official Twitter account.

He said Kartarpur border opening was “history in the making” and it would judge those who stood on the wrong side.

Talking to Dawn, Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said that Islamabad had received confirmation about participation of two Indian ministers in the event.

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

As the Sikh community would be greeted with love, he was sure that they would take back a positive image of Pakistan and its people, he said.

Although the decision to open Kartarpur border was shared by Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa with the Congress leader and Indian Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu at the oath-taking ceremony of PM Khan, Islamabad announced the date for the groundbreaking ceremony of the corridor only after the Indian Union cabinet recently 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.

NAROWAL: A view of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur. The Gurdwara (left) sits on the place where Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, assembled his disciples after missionary travels. Guru Nanak died here on Sept 22, 1539. (Right) An Indian Sikh devotee offers prayers at Dera Baba Nanak, Gurdaspur, while looking through binoculars towards the Kartarpur Gurdwara.—APP / AFP
NAROWAL: A view of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur. The Gurdwara (left) sits on the place where Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, assembled his disciples after missionary travels. Guru Nanak died here on Sept 22, 1539. (Right) An Indian Sikh devotee offers prayers at Dera Baba Nanak, Gurdaspur, while looking through binoculars towards the Kartarpur Gurdwara.—APP / AFP

The Pakistan government had extended invitation to three Indian politicians, including Congress leader and Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, and 17 journalists and editors from across the border for the event.

While Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh refused to attend the groundbreaking with thanks, Mr Sidhu accepted the invitation.

“This day will indeed break ground. 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,” said the cricketer-turned-politician.

Mr Sidhu said the announcement of Kartarpur border opening was like “getting everything in one go”.

In an interview to PTV, Mr Sidhu said his biggest wish had come true and he was very thankful to PM Imran Khan. He said he would definitely visit Pakistan for the occasion as it was a big honour for him. He said bloodshed between the two neighbouring countries should end and they should live together with peace and harmony.

Earlier, Ms Swaraj had excused herself from attending the ceremony due to her other commitments, but announced that Indian Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Shri Hardeep Singh Puri would represent the Indian government at the event.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2018