External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will not visit Pakistan to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor project and has deputed Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri, PTI reported. The Narendra Modi-led government had cleared the proposal to develop the corridor on Thursday.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a tweet earlier on Saturday said he had extended an invitation to Swaraj, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and state minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to attend the ceremony on November 28. Sidhu had also received an invitation from Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who will inaugurate the foundation-laying ceremony.
While President Ram Nath Kovind and Singh will lay the foundation stone of the corridor in Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district on Monday, Khan will lay the foundation stone on the Pakistani side on Wednesday.
In a letter to Qureshi, Swaraj thanked Qureshi for the invite but said it would not be possible for her to travel to Kartarpur Sahib due to prior commitments and that India will instead delegate Badal and Puri for the ceremony.
“Being mindful of the sentiments of our Sikh citizens and the importance of facilitating their smooth and easy access to holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, we will be sending Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the minister for food processing and industries, and Hardeep Singh Puri, the minister of state for housing and urban affairs, as the Government of India’s representatives for the event planned for November 28,” she said.
Swaraj’s “prior commitments” involve the election campaign in Telangana, The Indian Express reported.
“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 Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor as soon as possible,” she said on Twitter.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday hoped the Kartarpur corridor would act as a bridge between the people of India and Pakistan. He even referred to the fall of the Berlin Wall to underline its importance.
However, a day after both countries agreed to develop the corridor, India had on Friday lodged a strong protest against the harassment of its consular officials visiting Pakistan with Sikh pilgrims and said they were denied access.