Chandigarh | Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Sunday accepted Pakistan’s invite to attend the ground-breaking ceremony of a corridor to the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara across the border on Wednesday, saying this initiative would open “the borders of hearts and the mind”.
The foundation stone of the Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Sahib corridor on the Indian side will be laid by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday.
Singh has declined to attend the ceremony in Pakistan, citing its continuous support to terrorist activities in his state and killing of Indian soldiers by Pakistan armed forces.
He, however, welcomed the historic occasion and described it as the cherished desire of Sikhs around the world, but said he “must most reluctantly, however, regret his inability to be present”.
On Sunday, Sidhu wrote to Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, accepting his invitation for the ground-breaking ceremony, where Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will also be present.
“It is with great honour and unalloyed joy that I accept your invitation to attend the ground-breaking ceremony at Kartarpur Sahib on November 28. I look forward to meeting you on this historic occasion,” Sidhu wrote to Qureshi.
The Local Government, Tourism and Cultural Affairs Minister wrote that his application “for permission to attend (the ceremony) is now lodged with the Ministry of External Affairs”.
In the letter, Sidhu said that this day “will indeed break ground.” “As our nations take this first step, the Kartarpur Spirit can make pilgrims of us all, venturing out on a journey that breaks the barriers of history and opens the borders of hearts and the mind,” he said. “A journey that our people can walk together towards, a future of shared peace and prosperity for India and Pakistan”.
Sidhu was responding to Qureshi’s letter to him dated November 24, in which the Pakistani foreign minister had said, “This has been a long-standing demand of the Sikh community, especially those from India. You remained a steadfast partner in this endeavour.”
Sidhu responded, “Good deeds speak for themselves, the hand only interprets their eloquence. Every noble act makes way for itself.”
The Punjab minister had welcomed the Indian government’s decision to develop passage from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur in his state to the historic shrine in the neighbouring country. The decision coincided with the 549th birth anniversary of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev on Friday.
The government will build and develop the corridor from Gurdaspur district to the International Border to facilitate Sikh pilgrims from India to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur on the banks of the Ravi river.
In August, Sidhu had come under fire from opposition parties in Punjab after he visited Islamabad and hugged Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa during the swearing-in of Imran Khan as prime minister of that country. Sidhu had claimed then that Gen Bajwa had told him about “making efforts to open the Kartarpur corridor”.
Kartarpur is located in Shakargarh in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab. Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, had spent more than 18 years of his life there.
The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara is located about three-four km from the border in Pakistan.