Saturday Nov 24, 2018
NEW DELHI: Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Saturday excused from attending groundbreaking ceremony of Kartarpur corridor on Pakistan side of the border between the two countries.
"I thank HE Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi Foreign Minister of Pakistan for inviting me to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor on the Pakistan side of the International boundary on 28 November 2018," Sushma said on Twitter.
"Since I am unable to travel to Kartarpur Sahib on the scheduled date, Government of India will be represented by my esteemed colleagues Mrs. Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Mr. H. S. Puri."
However, the Indian minister expressed hope that the construction of the corridor would be expedited so that Indian citizens could pay their respects at the Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib.
"We hope that the Government of Pakistan will expedite 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," she said.
Qureshi on Saturday extended an invitation to his Indian counterpart to attend the ceremony for opening of the corridor between the two countries on November 28.
The foreign minister also invited Chief Minister of India's Punjab province Amarinder Singh and former Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu to the ceremony.
India on Thursday gave the go-ahead to Pakistan’s proposal to build Kartarpur corridor to facilitate Sikh pilgrims wishing to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Narowal district near the Indian border.
The Gurdwara Kartarpur Darbar Sahib in Narowal district of Pakistan's Punjab province holds religious significance for the Sikh community. It is where Baba Guru Nanak settled down after his travels as a missionary. He lived there for 18 years until his death in 1539.
Earlier in the day, Sidhu confirmed receiving an invitation from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s office to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan.
Speaking to Indian Express, Sidhu said, “I got a call from Pakistan Prime Minister’s office on Friday. It was the same person who had called me when I was invited for the swearing-in ceremony.”
“I will go if the Government of India allows me to go. It will be a great honour to be a part of history. There will not be a happier moment than the time when my turban touches the ground where Guru Nanak Dev once walked. It was an unfulfilled wish of my parents,” he added.
When asked if he will attend the ceremony on the Indian side of the border on November 26th, the Indian Punjab local bodies minister said, “I will certainly go if I am invited.”
The former cricketer has often spoken about the need for the two countries to have friendly relations. He visited the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan in August 2018.
During his visit, Sidhu also met with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, which invited vicious criticism and attacks by hardliners in India.
General Bajwa had told Sidhu that the Pakistan government will open the Dera Baba Nanak (Kartarpur) corridor on Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary.
The former Indian cricketer had later raised the matter with Swaraj, saying that it was India’s responsibility to make a formal request to Pakistan.