Sushma Welcomes Pak Invite But Can’t Travel


New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Saturday welcomed an invitation from Pakistan to attend the ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor on November 28, however, expressed her inconvenience citing other engagements on the day. Sushma in a statement said that in her place Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri will travel to Pakistan for the groundbreaking ceremony.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had invited his Indian counterpart to attend the ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor, that links India’s border district of Gurdaspur with the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, on November 28. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu are also among the invitees.

“On behalf of Pakistan I have extended an invitation to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Capt Amarinder Singh & Navjot Singh Sidhu to attend the groundbreaking ceremony at Kartarpura on Nov 28, 2018,” Qureshi tweeted.

Amarinder Singh has invited Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, the speaker of the Assembly in Pakistan’s Punjab province, to attend a similar ceremony that will take place at the Indian side of the border on November 26.

The visa-free corridor for Sikhs from India to Pakistan’s Kartarpur Sahib is being seen as a step forward in improving the strained relations between the two neighbouring countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday invoked the fall of the Berlin Wall to underline the potential transformative nature of the diplomatic move. “Who thought the Berlin Wall would fall. May be, with the blessings of Guru Nanak Devji, Kartarpur corridor will not only be a corridor but can be a reason to bring people together,” Modi said at a function to mark the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

The long-standing demand of the Sikh community took shape on Thursday, when hours after the Union Cabinet approved the development of the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak village in Gurdaspur to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Pakistan, the Pakistan government responded that it has decided to open the corridor. The length of the corridor is about 4 km, 2 km on either side of the international border.

Within minutes of the Cabinet decision being announced, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tweeted that the Pakistan government “has already conveyed to India its decision to open Kartarpur Corridor for Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary”, and that Prime Minister Imran Khan would do a groundbreaking ceremony for the corridor on November 28. He also welcomed “the Sikh community to Pakistan for the auspicious occasion”.

Pakistan Foreign Office on Friday said the “Kartarpur Spirit can be a step forward in the right direction from conflict to cooperation, animosity to peace and enmity to friendship.”