–Indian Punjab chief minister declines Pakistan’s invitation to attend Kartarpur stone-laying, but calls it ‘historic occasion’
–Pakistan stands for peace in South Asia, comments Info Minister Fawad Chaudhry
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday welcomed India’s decision to send two of its ministers to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur border crossing.
On November 28, Prime Minister Imran Khan will perform the groundbreaking of the 4-km-long corridor connecting Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district with Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan. The corridor will provide visa-free access to the Indian Sikh pilgrims to the shrine.
Talking to media persons during his visit to the stall of Indian High Commission at the Foreign Office Women’s Association charity bazaar in Islamabad, he said the Indian response to Pakistan’s peace initiative has been positive.
The foreign minister said India responded well to the bid to facilitate the Sikh community as Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed sending two ministers, namely Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri, to attend the Kartarpur event.
Qureshi said Pakistan won the hearts of millions of Sikhs with a single, but significant step. He expressed confidence that the Kartarpur corridor will attract members of the Sikh community to Pakistan from across the globe, including the United States and United Kingdom.
He said the Sikh community will be greeted here amid sentiments of love and will take back positive image of Pakistan and its people.
Earlier, the Pakistan government had invited Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu besides 17 Indian journalists to the Nov 28 Kartarpur corridor groundbreaking ceremony.
‘PAKISTAN STANDS FOR PEACE’:
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said that Pakistan once again proved that it stands for peace in South Asia.
In a tweet, the minister said that Kartarpur border opening was history in the making and it would judge those who stood on the wrong side.
Later in the day, speaking as a chief guest at the opening ceremony of Cinematography Film Festival at Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA), the minister said Pakistan received support from the world, including European Union, for the initiative.
Fawad said, “We have recently taken initiatives. We are opening Kartarpur border. This is a big huge peace initiative and has the support of the whole world and the European Union.”
Cricketer-turn-politician and Indian Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Sunday expressed his heartfelt thanks to Prime Minister Imran Khan for taking the “unprecedented initiative” of opening the Kartarpur border.
Talking to a private news channel, he said Pakistan has won the hearts of millions of people on both sides of the border.
He said, “My biggest wish has now come true.” It was like “getting everything in one go,” he added.
Sidhu said he will visit Pakistan for the occasion. Replying to a question, he said the peace initiative was just a beginning which would lead to a further positive development in future.
He said the coming generations will remember those who have taken these positive steps and their names will be written in golden letters in history.
Meanwhile, India’s Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh declined Pakistan’s invitation to attend the Kartarpur corridor foundation stone-laying ceremony on the other side of the international border, citing cross-border terror attacks in his state.
In a letter to Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Singh said it is a historic occasion, but regretted his inability to be present.
While the idea was shared by the army chief with the Congress leader and Indian Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu during his visit to Pakistan in August for attending Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony, the Pakistan government announced the date for the groundbreaking ceremony of the corridor only this week after the Indian Union cabinet agreed to avail the offer of the passageway in view of the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of the Sikh faith, Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, next year.
According to the proposal, the Indian government will construct and develop the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the border, while Pakistan will build the other part of the corridor connecting the border to the Gurdwara in the Kartarpur Sahib area of Narowal district.