Amritsar/Chandigarh | Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri, who represented the Indian government at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan, said Wednesday the corridor was anchored in hope and goodwill but there is need to be conscious of ground realities.
Puri, along with Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, crossed over to the neighbouring country through Attari-Wagah land route in Amritsar to attend the ceremony. Puri, the Union minister of state (independent charge) of Housing and Urban Affairs, told reporters at Attari in Amritsar district before crossing to Pakistan that the long pending demand of the Sikh community has been met.
Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is located across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. It was established by the Sikh Guru in 1522. The first gurdwara, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, was built here, where Guru Nanak Dev is said to have died.
The Kartarpur Corridor, which will facilitate the visa-free travel of Indian Sikh pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, is expected to be completed within six months.
“It is a historic day. Speaking on my own behalf, I regard myself as particularly privileged and blessed to be able to make this pilgrimage. Paying obeisance at the Gurdwara Sahib holds special significance in the life of every Sikh. Not only did the Guru Nanak spent 18 years of his life there, it is his resting place also,” he told reporters.
Puri, a former diplomat, thanked the Pakistan government for its decision to build the corridor on its side. He said, “This decision is anchored in hope and goodwill, but we have to be acutely conscious of the ground realities. The ground realities are that the two countries, on account of a lot of factors and I don’t want to enter into any political discussion here, because of several factors there is distrust, we have felt for very long that we have been at the receiving end of actions of a country, of a state, which should not have allowed certain forces on their territory. But I don’t want to touch upon those”.
Asked if the decision to develop the Kartarpur corridor would mean breaking of ice between the two nations, he said, “You have to be aware of the ground realities. You have to be aware of mistrust which exists. But as the prime minister said, now whether we are able to transform this into something meaningful in terms of people to people contact and breaking of the ice and taking it further, that is something we will have to work on”.
Expressing hope, he said there is an opportunity here that the demand of the Sikh community has been met, but “we need to operationalise the decision and operationalising the decision, making the corridor operative and to take this process further will require actions by all the stakeholders”.
He said, “Let us take one step at a time, I don’t want to jump the gun. I think we must allow the goodwill, that is the essence of teachings of the guru. I think he was half a century ahead of his time. The kind of teachings he has given, if those teachings can be invoked to resolve our problems, it would be a very proud day for me as a Sikh”.
On with what hope he was going to Pakistan, Puri said, “I am going with full hope. I am not leading a bilateral discussion, but yes I have been nominated along with Harsimrat Kaur ji to represent the Government of India in this”.
“We should welcome the fact that both the governments are committed to building the infrastructure on the respective sides of the border. In fact, when I was attending the function at Dera Baba Nanak (Gurdaspur, for foundation stone laying event of Kartarpur corridor on the Indian side), Union minister Nitin Gadkari said that he is hopeful that the corridor (on Indian side) would be completed in four months,” Puri said.
Puri refuted claims that the Government of India had set the date of November 26 as foundation stone laying function of the Kartarpur corridor only after the Pakistan dispensation announced the date of its groundbreaking ceremony.
“Let me place on record that we were doing preparations several months earlier.”
Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, while talking to reporters at Attari, said it was an emotional moment for her and described as historic the decision to build the Kartarpur corridor.
“Today, I am getting to go to a place where the guru spent 18 years of his life. For me, this is an emotional moment, which has come through because of the prayers, millions like me have been saying for 70 years way before I was even born,” she said.
She expressed hope that millions more like her could now pay obeisance to the Sikh guru, who was there to unite mankind.