Peoples Democratic Party chief and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday said the Kartarpur corridor project could be the beginning of a reconciliation between India and Pakistan. Mufti tweeted that the project “is a great example of how religion can bring people together instead of dividing them”.

On Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone 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. India’s Ministry of External Affairs had criticised Khan for for raising the Kashmir dispute in his speech at the foundation-laying ceremony.

Mufti proposed that New Delhi and Islamabad should now focus on facilitating the pilgrimage to Sharda Peeth, an abandoned temple in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, to improve ties. “We cannot change our borders but let us make them irrelevant by facilitating trade and encouraging people to people contact,” she tweeted. “This will usher in peace and progress for both India and Pakistan.”

In April, Mufti had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urged for the development of Sharda Peeth, on par with other ancient centres of learning such as Nalanda in India and Takshila in Pakistan.

On Thursday, Mehbooba Mufti said her father and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had also envisioned a path of peace to “end the turmoil in Kashmir”.

She criticised some sections of the media for their purported portrayal of the project as a “conspiracy to create Khalistan”. “It is quite amusing how some TV channels are trying to distort a gesture like Kartarpur into some kind of conspiracy to create Khalistan,” Mufti tweeted. “One fails to understand why allowing people pilgrimage to Guru Nanak Dev ji’s birth place would assume such undertones.”

Strained bilateral ties

The foundation stone for the corridor on the Indian side was laid on Monday. However, the project has 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.