History will remember Imran Khan for bringing 2 countries together: Navjot Sidhu at Kartarpur event
Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan on Wednesday laid the foundation stone for the construction of the corridor linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of India’s Punjab, which will help lakhs of Indian Sikh pilgrims visit the holy place throughout the year without a visa.
India was represented by Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri at the event. Congress leader and Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu also present at the ceremony.
“My friend Imran Khan has ended the 70 years of wait. Imran has fulfilled our wishes. My parents used to see it from a distance and return with tears in their eyes. The Indian government and Imran Khan have fulfilled our wishes and connected us to our roots,” the cricketer-turned politician said after the ceremony.
“We have paid a big price for bloodshed and someone has to douse this fire. This corridor is full of promise, it will connect the two countries. History will remember Imran and the Indian government for bringing the two countries together with this,” Sidhu said.
Kartarpur Sahib in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province is located across the Ravi River and is about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. It was established by the Sikh Guru in 1522.
The demand to build a corridor linking India’s border district of Gurdaspur with the historic gurdwara in Pakistan has been a long-pending demand of the Sikh community. Thousands of Sikh devotees from India visit Pakistan every year to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
The Kartarpur corridor is expected to be completed within six months. The decision to build the corridor by both the countries comes ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak next year.
The issue of Kartarpur Sahib came into focus after Sidhu visited Pakistan in August to attend the oath-taking ceremony of his cricketer-turned-politician friend Khan as the prime minister of that country.
Sidhu said after his return that Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, who was present during Wednesday’s ceremony, had told him that Pakistan may open a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib.
India had proposed the corridor to Pakistan around 20 years ago. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while participating in the Gurpurab celebrations on November 23, had said that Kartarpur corridor could be a reason to connect people, adding that the incidents of 1947 should be left behind.
He had also added that if the Berlin Wall, which restricted the relationship between the people of East and West Germany could be pulled down, then the Kartarpur corridor between India and Pakistan can also promote people to people contact.
The decision to build the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to the International Border was taken on November 22 by the Union Cabinet. On the same day, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had announced that Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan would be breaking the ground for the Kartarpur corridor on November 28.
Pakistan extended an invitation on November 23 to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and Sidhu for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor on November 28.
The invitation was, however, declined by Swaraj citing her prior commitments pertaining to election campaigns. The Punjab chief minister also said he would not attend the ceremony citing terror attacks by Pakistan.
Ties between the two neighbours have been strained in recent years and no bilateral talks have been held. India had pulled out of the 19th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit that was to be held in Islamabad in 2016 after the deadly terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’ Uri in September that year.
And on Wednesday, Swaraj said India will not attend the SAARC summit to be held in Pakistan unless the neighbouring countrystops sponsoring terror activities.