India has sent Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri to Pakistan to attend the ground-breaking ceremony, while Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu is present in his “personal” capacity.
According to sources, Pakistan plans to showcase the ceremony as a big event with its foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi cancelling his meeting in Geneva to be present at Kartarpur. Sources added that following the ground-breaking ceremony, Imran Khan will himself show Harsimrat Kaur, Puri and Sidhu around the gurdwara. This will be followed by a ‘langar’ for everyone at lunch time.
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, Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesman Mohammad Faisal said on Tuesday.
The development comes ahead of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary next year.
India has also said it will build and develop a corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district to the International Border to facilitate Sikh pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday hoped that the Kartarpur Corridor would act as a bridge between the people of India and Pakistan that might lead to a better future as he referred to the fall of the Berlin Wall to underline the importance of people-to-people contact.
Speaking at a function to mark the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in New Delhi, Modi said the issues between the governments and the armies would continue and only time will show the way out.
Thousands of Sikh devotees from India visit Pakistan every year to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
The issue of Kartarpur Sahib came into focus after Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu visited Pakistan in August to attend the oath-taking ceremony of his cricketer-turned-politician friend Imran Khan as prime minister of that country.
After his return, Sidhu said that Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa had told him that Pakistan may open a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib.
Sidhu has already arrived in Lahore with a group of Indian journalists to attend the ground breaking ceremony on Wednesday.
The India-Pakistan ties nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place. The ties between the two countries had strained after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016.
Sidhu has termed the Kartarpur Corridor as a “corridor of infinite possibilities” and said such initiatives would promote peace and erase “enmity” between India and Pakistan.
“The seed Imran Khan had sown three months ago has become a plant. It is a happy moment for the Sikh community that the corridor to reach Kartarpur to get Baba Guru Nanak’s blessing without any hassle,” he told the media.
“Karturpur corridor will prove to be a path of peace, Sidhu added.
On Monday, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh laid the foundation stone of the corridor in Gurdaspur.
Pakistan had invited External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who thanked her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi for the invite and said she was unable to travel to Kartarpur Sahib due to prior commitments.