External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has politely declined Pakistan’s invitation for the ground-breaking ceremony for the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims. But, two of her cabinet colleagues will attend it. India will send Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in a tweet, said yesterday that he has extended an invitation to Ms Swaraj, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and state minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to attend the ceremony at Kartarpur on November 28.
In a letter to Qureshi, Ms Swaraj thanked him for the invite but said it would not be possible for her to travel to Kartarpur Sahib due to prior commitments. The visit of the two Union ministers to Pakistan is expected to ease tension between the two countries.
“Being mindful of the sentiments of our Sikh citizens and the importance of facilitating their smooth and easy access to holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, we will be sending Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the Minister for Food Processing and Industries, and Hardeep Singh Puri, the Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs, as the Government of India’s representatives for the event planned for November 28,” she said in the letter.
Earlier, on Thursday, both countries have announced that they would develop Katarpur corridor in their respective areas, linking Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district with the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan. Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, is located across the Ravi river in Pakistan and is about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of Punjab in India.
The corridor, once built, will give Indian pilgrims easy access to the shrine. In her letter to Qureshi, Ms Swaraj also hoped that the government of Pakistan will expedite the construction of the corridor in order to ensure that “our citizens can pay their respects at the Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor as soon as possible.”
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the ground breaking ceremony of the corridor on the Pakistani side on November 28. Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed hope that the Kartarpur corridor would act as a bridge between the peoples of India and Pakistan. He even referred to the fall of the Berlin wall to underline the importance of the corridor.