By Muhammad Luqman
Pakistan has formally invited the Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to the groundbreaking ceremony of the border crossing being built at Kartarpur to facilitate the Sikh pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib.
However, she has expressed her inability to come to Pakistan to attend the ceremony due to her engagements at home.
” i am thankful to Foreign Minister Qureshi for the invitation; I won’t be able to attend the ceremony at Kartarpur on November 28,” Ms. Swaraj said on Saturday evening.
Four days ahead of the historic groundbreaking of the Kartarpur corridor, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had extended an invitation to his Indian counterpart to attend the event..
According to a tweet by Qureshi, an invitation has also been sent to Chief Minister of Indian Punjab Capt Amarinder Singh and cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu.
“On behalf of Pakistan I have extended an invitation to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj @SushmaSwaraj, Capt Amarinder Singh @capt_amarinder & Navjot Singh Sidhu @sherryontopp to attend the groundbreaking ceremony at #Kartarpura on 28 Nov, 2018. #PakistanKartarpuraSpirit,” FM Qureshi tweeted.
The groundbreaking ceremony will be held on Wednesday, November 28 and will be performed by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
In a rare positive development in Pakistan-India ties, New Delhi accepted an Islamabad offer on Thursday about building a new border crossing and road connecting their respective Punjab provinces, making it easier for Sikh pilgrims to visit the religious site in Pakistan.
The corridor will connect Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to Kartarpur in Pakistan’s Narowal district where the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib — the shrine of revered saint Baba Guru Nanak — is situated along river Ravi.
FM Qureshi also urged the Indian leadership to demonstrate the courage to open doors for the Kashmiri people for trade and people-to-people contacts.
While addressing a National Assembly session on Friday, the foreign minister said the dialogue was the only way forward towards the resolution of all outstanding disputes with India.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, while briefing the reporters on Saturday, said the federal cabinet has also formally approved opening of Kartarpur corridor to facilitate Sikh community of India.
Fawad Chaudhry said a visa-free entry will be provided to Sikh pilgrims from India and a mechanism in this regard is being finalised.
He remarked that opening of Kartarpur corridor is a peace initiative of Pakistan to normalise relations with India because Islamabad wants normalisation of ties with New Delhi to defeat poverty and this endeavor will be pursued with utmost sincerity.
Kartarpur is a small town in district Narowal, 4 km from the Pakistan- India border, where the founder of the Sikh religion, Baba Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life. Subsequently, Gurdwara Darbar Sahab was built at the site on the Pakistan side and Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak in India, which are visited by thousands of Sikhs every year.
Opening the corridor will provide Sikh Yatrees ease of access for their most reverential place of worship which has been their longstanding demand. This is also reflective of the importance and primacy that Pakistan gives to all minorities, the Foreign Office said on Friday.
Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff,General Qamar Javed Bajwa had offered to Indian politician Navjot Singh Sidhu the opening of Kartarpur border during his visit to Pakistan to attend oathtaking ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan in August last.