'Will definitely visit if Indian government allows': Sidhu on Pakistan PM inviting him for Kartarpur opening ceremony

A long-pending demand of the Sikh community to build a religious corridor linking India's border district of Gurdaspur with a historic gurudwara in Pakistan may finally be fulfilled with both the countries announcing that stretches would be developed in their respective areas.

'Will visit if Indian government allows': Sidhu on Pak PM inviting him for Kartarpur opening ceremony
Indian cricketer-turned-politician and Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu (L) gestures after offering prayers for his proposal on opening a "corridor" for Sikh pilgrims reaching from India’s Dera Baba Nanak to Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, in Amritsar on August 25, 2018. - India's cricketer-turned politician Navjot Sidhu on August 21 hit back at critics attacking him for hugging the army chief of rival Pakistan, saying he just got emotional. (Photo by NARINDER NANU / AFP)
By: ABP News Bureau
Updated: 23 Nov 2018 06:22 PM
New Delhi: Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has been invited by Pakistan PM Imran Khan to be a part of the laying of the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor project on November 28. Khan reportedly made a telephonic call to Sidhu to invite him. The cricketer-turned-politician said if he will definitely visit Pakistan if he gets an authorization from the Indian government.

Two months ago, Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu had announced after a visit to Pakistan that the country was ready to give Indian pilgrims direct access to the gurdwara. Sidhu had then come under fire for hugging the Pakistan army chief, who he said had given him the assurance.

On Thursday, Sidhu was gracious. He tweeted: “I welcome this auspicious step by the Union Cabinet….”
Meanwhile in India, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and President Ram Nath Kovind will jointly lay the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor project in Dera Baba Nanak area of Gurdaspur district on November 26.

"Happy to share that I'll be joining President Ram Nath Kovind ji in laying foundation stone for Kartarpur Corridor to International Border at Dera Baba Nanak, Gurdaspur, on November 26. It will be a great moment indeed for all devotees of Sri Guru Nanak Dev," the Chief Minister tweeted.

The Union Cabinet on Thursday decided to develop the corridor from Gurdaspur in Punjab to the International Border (IB) to facilitate the passage of pilgrims to the Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara in Pakistan as part of the 550th birth annversary celebrations of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, next year.

However, the Centre clarified that India's decision was not in response to any proposal from Pakistan. The resolution was passed after many weeks of internal consultations and preparations within the government.

The gurdwara is significant for the Sikh community since Guru Nanak Dev spent 18 years of his life in Kartarpur till he died in 1539.

It is located around 2 km from the IB between both countries and can be seen from the Indian side.

A long-pending demand of the Sikh community to build a religious corridor linking India's border district of Gurdaspur with a historic gurudwara in Pakistan may finally be fulfilled with both the countries announcing that stretches would be developed in their respective areas.

In a significant decision, the Union Cabinet cleared a proposal to develop a corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district to the International Border to facilitate Indian pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan.

Following the Cabinet decision, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India urged Pakistan to build the corridor to Kartarpur Sahib on the Pakistani side to facilitate visit of the Indian pilgrims to the shrine -- the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak.

Hours later, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Islamabad has conveyed to India its decision to open the Kartarpur corridor. The MEA sent a letter to Pakistan, urging it to construct the corridor on its side.

Punjab government sources said President Ram Nath Kovind and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh will lay the foundation stone of Kartarpur Corridor at Dera Baba Nanak on November 26.

Kartarpur Sahib is located across Ravi river in Pakistan and is about four km from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. The corridor, once built, will give Indian pilgrims easy access to the shrine in Kartarpur.
In a tweet, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the Cabinet approved building and development of Kartarpur corridor and that it will have all modern amenities and facilities.

As there was an indication from Pakistan that it was eager to build the corridor irrespective of the Indian decision, government sources said the Indian proposal was pending with that country for nearly two decades.

The sources said India was for facilitating easy movement of Indians to the shrine in Pakistan and that there must be no restrictions on the number of pilgrims. They also said there must be free and readily available consular access for Indian citizens on the Pakistani side.

The sources said India wants the corridor to be kept open for 24 hours on all days.

They said despite the harassment that pilgrims face on the Pakistani side, with the display of Khalistani posters or through the lack of access to consular officials, Sikh pilgrims continue to make the difficult journey.

The sources said Indian High Commission officials were not allowed to meet Indian pilgrims in Gurudwara Nankana Sahib in Pakistan yesterday and India may raise the issue with Islamabad.

Pakistan's Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry welcomed the Indian announcement to commence the construction of the Kartarpur corridor, calling it a "victory of peace".

"It is a step towards the right direction and we hope such steps will encourage voice of reasons and tranquillity on both sides of the border," he tweeted.

India had first proposed the Kartarpur Sahib corridor in 1999 when the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took a bus ride to Lahore.

BJP president Amit Shah and SAD chief Sukhbir Badal termed as "historic" the Union Cabinet's decision to develop the Katarpur corridor.

"I thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi for approving the historic Kartarpur Sahib corridor. This would greatly help pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan. The Modi govt has continuously strived to enrich India's rich religious diversity and this step further reinforces it," Shah tweeted.

Badal said the SAD has been persistently requesting successive central governments for this corridor.

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.

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.

(With additional information from Agencies)