Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday laid the foundation stone of the long-awaited Kartarpur corridor in a ceremony that was attended by Indian leaders, including Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and Union Ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri. The ceremony was held to begin work on the corridor linking the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur — the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev — to the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district in India. The corridor is expected to facilitate the visa-free movement of Sikh pilgrims from India to the shrine.
Here’s what the leaders from both nations said at the event:
Navjot Singh Sidhu: My yaar, dildaar Imran Khan has ‘ended 70 years of wait’
Expressing happiness about Pakistan’s decision, Sidhu said both India and its neighbour should realise that they have to move forward. Describing the Kartarpur Corridor as a major opportunity to open the hearts of the people in the two neighbouring countries, Sidhu said, “Violence must be stopped and peace should be restored between India and Pakistan.” Congratulating Khan on the ‘initiative’, Sidhu said his “big-hearted” friend Khan has kept his promise and ended the 70-year wait for the corridor.
“There had been enough bad blood and that the corridor would be a major opportunity to open the doors of the hearts of the people. Both the nations should seek a path of brotherhood and live in harmony without any fear with the blessing of Guru Nanak Dev. If the borders between both countries opened, it would be possible to transport goods to different parts of Pakistan and even others countries,” Sidhu said.
“This is my hope, this is my dream … While there is blood in my veins, I will continue to thank both governments. My father used to tell me that Punjab Mail went till Lahore, I believe that it can go further till Peshawar, till Afghanistan,” the Punjab minister said.
Imran Khan expresses hopes for strong ties with India
Khan said Pakistan wants a “strong” and “civilised” relationship with India, and that the two countries can resolve all issues – including Kashmir – with determination.
“We want to move forward in our relations with India. If France and Germany who fought several wars can live in peace, why can’t India and Pakistan,” Khan said at the ceremony which was attended by Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Pakistan government officials.
Khan said that Pakistan and India couldn’t understand the opportunities God has given them. He said that whenever he visited India, he was told that politicians are united, but the Army wouldn’t permit the two sides to be friends.
“I am saying today, that our political leaders, our army, and all other institutions are all on one page. We wish to move forward, we want a civilised relationship. We have just one problem, Kashmir. If man can walk on the moon, what problems are there that we cannot resolve?” Khan asked.
“I assure you that we can solve this problem. But determination and big dreams are necessary. Imagine, once trade begins, once our relationship is fixed, how much both nations could benefit,” he said. Khan reiterated that if India takes one step forward, Pakistan will take two steps forward to further the friendship.
“The happiness I see in you today, if I were to explain to my Muslim brother and sisters, is that imagine that you are standing 4-km outside Medina (a city in Saudi Arabia where the Prophet is buried) and cannot go in, and you are then given the chance to go. That is the happiness I see here,” the Pakistan prime minister said.
Khan assured the Sikh community that the facilities at the Kartarpur Sahib will be improved for 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev next year.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal says Guru Nanak spent 18 years of his life at Kartarpur
Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal – who represented India along with Hardeep Singh Puri at the ceremony – said, “The mistrust between India and Pakistan can be removed through revisiting the message of peace and love.”
“If the Berlin Wall can fall, then the mistrust between two neighbourly countries, India and Pakistan, can also be removed through revisiting the message of peace and love spread by Guru Nanak,” she said.
“Guru Nanak spent 18 years of his life at Kartarpur and spread his message of peace and love. Today is historic not just for the Sikh community, but for the people, and the governments of India and Pakistan,” Kaur said, adding: “We have been so close, but so far for 70 years. Scores of Sikhs are on this journey for the first time today. I have no friends, no relatives here (in Pakistan). I never thought I would be here.”
“When we laid the foundation stone (for the corridor) in Indian Punjab, I saw the corridor becoming a reality there and now I am seeing it here. Today this corridor will bring everyone together … It will bring joy and peace to both countries. I beseech you … to issue postage stamps or coins to commemorate Guru Nanak,” she said.
Hardeep Singh Puri says corridor was anchored in hope and goodwill
Puri, the Union minister of state (independent charge) of Housing and Urban Affairs, said the corridor was anchored in hope and goodwill but there is a need to be conscious of ground realities.
“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 said, thanking the Pakistan government for its decision to build the corridor on its side.
Meanwhile SAD, BJP slam Sidhu for ‘disobeying’ CM by visiting Pakistan
The Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP slammed Sidhu for “disobeying” Chief Minister Amarinder Singh by visiting Pakistan despite being asked to reconsider his decision.
“It is quite strange that Sidhu is disobeying his chief minister. If he cannot respect the feelings of his CM then he should not be in the cabinet. If you disagree with your boss, then you have no right to be under the chief minister’s command,” SAD spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema said on Wednesday.
Sushma Swaraj clarifies that Kartarpur thaw doesn’t mean bilateral talks can be expected.
On Wednesday, hours before the ceremony in Paksitan, Swaraj said there would be no dialogue with Pakistan until it stops sponsoring terrorist activities.
“I am very happy that for the last 20 years, India has been asking for the Kartarpur Corridor and for the first time Pakistan has agreed to it now. But that does not mean that bilateral talks will start only on this,” she said, adding that terror and talks cannot go together.