Front-Row Seat for Sidhu as Pakistan makes way for Kartarpur Diplomacy
Kashmir dispute can be resolved with humanity, says Imran Khan. Sidhu given special treatment and front row seat near Pak PM
New Delhi, Nov 28: The Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wenesday stretched out the olive branch seeking a “civilized relationship” with India.
“For 70 years, we have been fighting with each other… India points fingers at Pakistan, and Pakistan points fingers at India. There have been mistakes on both sides, but how long must we keep play this blame-game? Every time we take one step ahead, we slide two steps behind. Whenever I travelled to India, people would tell me the Pakistan army was not interested in peace… I am telling you that I the PM, our party, other political parties, our army – we are all on the same page and we want to move ahead with India. We want to have a civilized relationship,” Imran Khan said, after holding a groundbreaking ceremony for the corridor to Kartarpur Sahib, one of the holiest shrines of Sikhs.
“We have a common aim, resolving the Kashmir dispute. Can’t we, as human beings, fix that? I guarantee that it can happen, we just need the will and a dream. How much advantage both the sides will have through peace… We have to bury our differences to make peace and open our borders to each other,” he added. “It can be resolved with “humanity”.
Citing the example of France and Germany, which were on opposite sides of the battleground during the Second World War, to push his demand for peace. “If France and Germany managed to come together after waging such a big war in which so many people on both sides died, why can’t we do the same? They have an open border now, and fruitful business ties. When they could break their chains of hatred, why can’t we? We also killed each other in the years past, but we did not try an honest hand at peace,” he said.
Imran Khan today laid the foundation stone for a corridor linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur — the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev — to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district to facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims.
Representing India were Union Ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri at the event. 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.
Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu also attended the ceremony in his personal capacity. In a departure from protocol, Sidhu was seated closer to Imran Khan and next to Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while Harsimrat and Puri were seated a few seats away. What also raised eyebrows in India, was the presence of Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa who was also present at what was essentially a civilian function. In another controversial attendance, Sikh militant and pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Sigh Chawla was also present and seek shaking hands with Bajwa.
Chawla’s name was recently linked by intelligence agencies to the attack on Nirankari Bhawan in Amritsar, in which three people were killed. Officials had said Chawla was in contact with ISI and Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed to hatch a terror plot, and agencies had also acquired a photo of a meeting between Chawla and Saeed.
Chawla was also involved in pasting photos of ‘Sikh Referendum 2020’ outside Gurdwaras in Pakistan when Sikh pilgrims from India visited the neighbouring country on Baisakhi.
Located across the river Ravi, Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is 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.
The development comes ahead of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary next year.
Thousands of Sikh devotees from India visit Pakistan every year to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
India had proposed the corridor to Pakistan around 20 years back. Last week, Pakistan and India announced that they would develop the corridor on their respective side of the border to help Indian pilgrims visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.
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.
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.