Kartarpur corridor LIVE updates: Pakistan PM Imran Khan launches project
The groundbreaking ceremony to mark start of the development of the Kartarpur corridor was held in Pakistan today, and among the attendees were embattled Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. The duo had generated political controversy earlier by hugging, and both were present at the ceremony, amid a row between India and Pakistan over the SAARC summit.
Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would boycott the SAARC summit, which is being held in Pakistan. Explaining PM Modi's decision, Swaraj had said that dialogue between Pakistan and India would not begin till Pakistan stopped terrorist activities in India. However, the Kartarpur ceremony was attended by two Union ministers - Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri.
The Kartarpur corridor will connect Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, 3km inside Pakistan. Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life at the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, which is also his final resting place, and for years, the Sikh community had been demanding the development of a corridor that would allow pilgrims to travel to holy site and back to India within a day.
Sidhu's praise of Pakistan PM Imran Khan, however, might not go down well with many Indians, especially considering the earlier controversy over his decision to hug General Bajwa. The hug had put Sidhu under fire from all directions, and his own boss, Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh had rebuked him too. Given tensions between India and Pakistan, Sidhu might face flak again.
That said, PM Modi himself had earlier likened the bilateral decision to develop the Kartarpur corridor to the fall of Berlin Wall, saying that it could lead to a betterment of ties between Indians and Pakistanis. "May be with the blessings of Guru Nanak Devji, this...corridor will not just remain a corridor, but act as a bridge between the people of the two countries," Modi had said.
Meanwhile, for their part, Pakistan said that the development of the corridor would be completed before the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in November next year, and that Sikh pilgrims would be able to visit the site by then. Commenting on the development, Pakistan's Foreign Office further said that the decision to open the corridor showed that "Pakistan takes care of minorities".