The Congress on Sunday said former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would never go to Pakistan on Islamabad’s invitation, the Hindustan Times reported.
The statement came hours after Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Singh will attend the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara inauguration in Narowal in Pakistan’s Punjab province on November 9 as an “ordinary man” and not as a “chief guest”.
Congress spokesperson Pranav Jha said Singh will be a part of the first group that will visit the gurdwara along with other Indian dignitaries, but he will go as a pilgrim. Jha added that the invitation must come from the Indian government, and not Pakistan, for Singh to attend the inauguration ceremony. “Remember, as a prime minister for 10 years, he [Singh] never visited Pakistan even once,” said Jha.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is expected to inaugurate the corridor on November 9, while Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Indian side on November 8.
Qureshi told reporters in Multan district on Saturday that he had invited Singh. “I am thankful to him, he wrote me a letter and said, ‘I will come but not as chief guest but [as] an ordinary man’.” The foreign minister added that Pakistan would welcome him even if he attended the event as an ordinary participant.
On September 30, Qureshi first announced that Islamabad had decided to invite Singh for the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor.
Earlier this month, the former prime minister accepted Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s invitation to join the first group of devotees that will travel to Kartarpur as part of an all-party pilgrim delegation. Amarinder Singh has clarified that Manmohan Singh will not participate in any event organised by Pakistan. “There is no question of me going [for Pakistan’s event] and I feel Manmohan Singh will not go as well,” the chief minister has said. “There is a huge difference between visiting Pakistan and going to the gurdwara through the corridor.”
The corridor will connect Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur in India’s Punjab state to the gurdwara in Kartarpur, where Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev is supposed to have settled after his travels. He was also laid to rest in Kartarpur. The two countries are striving to complete the project before Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary on November 9. The corridor will allow Indian Sikh devotees to travel to the pilgrimage site without visa.
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