–FO spokesman says opening of Kartarpur corridor is a ‘great success for the country’
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday announced that it would extend an invitation to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for attending the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit.
Earlier, the 19th SAARC summit to be held in 2016 in Pakistan was cancelled after India boycotted the event. After India’s refusal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan also pulled out of the moot.
Addressing the Kashmir Conference here on Tuesday, Foreign Office Spokesman Dr Faisal recalled that Prime Minister Imran Khan in his first address had said that if India took one step forward, Pakistan would take two.
He said that the PM, in his response to Modi’s letter, had expressed Pakistan’s openness to resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue with India.
“We fought a war with India, relations cannot be fixed quickly,” Dr Faisal said.
The FO spokesman said that the Kartarpur Corridor, which will facilitate the visa-free travel of members of India’s Sikh community to their religious site in Pakistan, will be inaugurated on Wednesday and is expected to be completed within six months.
He said that the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor is a great success for the country, adding that the Indian media had been invited to cover the inauguration ceremony.
“In this century diplomacy has completely changed,” he said, adding: “Now policies are made based on citizens’ emotions and wishes.”
Earlier on Monday, Indian Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu laid the foundation stone for the construction of the corridor connecting Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district with Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur area in Narowal district.
“The corridor will become a symbol of love and peace between both countries,” Naidu said while addressing the groundbreaking ceremony of the four-kilometre-long corridor, according to Indian media reports.
“This is a momentous and historic day […] we are fulfilling the wish of thousands of Sikh devotees,” the Indian VP was quoted as saying.
However, India’s Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in his speech issued a ‘warning’ to Pakistan to not “vitiate the atmosphere”, reported Hindustan Times.
The proposal to construct the corridor providing visa-free access to Sikh pilgrims had been renewed by Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa in August this year.
Pakistan has invited Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu besides 17 Indian journalists to the Nov 28 Kartarpur corridor groundbreaking ceremony.
However, Swaraj excused herself from attending the ceremony, citing “prior commitments” but announced that India’s Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Shri Hardeep Singh Puri will attend the ceremony in Kartarpur Sahib as representatives of the Indian government. Meanwhile, the chief minister of Indian Punjab thanked Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi for the invitation but declined it in a letter addressed to the foreign minister.