Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday laid the foundation of a corridor that will connect Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur area of the country’s Narowal district, where the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, died in 1539, to Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Punjab state, Dawn reported.
Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi were among those present at the event. Indian Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri and Punjab state minister Navjot Singh Sidhu were also in attendance.
Imran Khan welcomed the visiting Indian dignitaries and pilgrims. “Happiness I saw today was like of those Muslims who are standing four km away from Medina on other side of the border, but are unable to visit it,” he said. “But when they get chance to visit it, the happiness they get is the happiness they are relishing today.”
The Pakistan prime minister said all facilities at the Kartarpur pilgrimage site would be ready by next year.
He added that India and Pakistan need determined leaders, who are willing to resolve the differences between the two countries on Kashmir. If India takes one step, his government will take two steps towards friendship, Khan said.
“The only issue between us is Kashmir, all it needs is just two capable leaderships to resolve this issue,” he said. “Just imagine the potential we have if our relationships get strong. I hope we do not have to wait for Sidhu to become the prime minister of India before the two countries can have friendly relations.”
Talking about the controversy that had erupted after Sidhu attended his oath-taking ceremony, Khan said: “I do not know why was he criticised, he was just talking about peace and brotherhood.” The prime minister said Sidhu would win an election contest even in the country’s Punjab province.
Sidhu, who had arrived in the country on Tuesday, recited poetry in praise of Imran Khan. At an event in Lahore after his arrival, he had expressed hope that the corridor would bring peace and prosperity to the two countries and prove to be “a foundation stone for brotherhood”.
Badal said participating in the ceremony was an “emotional moment” for her. “When the wall of Berlin can be brought down, then hatred between India and Pakistan can be brought down too with opening of Kartarpur corridor,” she said. Puri described the visit as “the most momentous journey” of his life.
Before leaving for Kartarpur, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal told Radio Pakistan that the foundation-laying ceremony was a monumental event “which will open many opportunities for both Pakistan and India”. Islamabad was committed to bridging gaps with New Delhi, he added.
The foundation on the Indian side was laid on Monday. However, the events have been overshadowed by discord between the two countries over the alleged role of Pakistan-based groups in a grenade attack in Amritsar last week. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had criticised Islamabad at Monday’s event and declined Pakistan’s invitation to attend the ceremony. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who also chose to skip the ceremony, pulled India out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Islamabad, citing cross-border terrorism as one of the reasons.