–Indian politician and ex-cricketer says ‘90% Indians want bilateral ties with Pakistan’
LAHORE: Indian politician and former cricket star Navjot Singh Sidhu on Tuesday said he had come to Pakistan with a “message of peace and love” as he crossed the Wagah border to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor in Narowal district on Wednesday.
The corridor will connect Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur, India with Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib on the banks of the River Ravi in Pakistan.
Sidhu had been extended an invitation for the ceremony by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi last week.
Prime Minister Imran Khan will perform the groundbreaking of the corridor on Nov 28 (Wednesday). The proposal to construct the corridor providing visa-free access to Sikh pilgrims was renewed by Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa in August this year.
Sindhu thanked the prime minister and, while speaking to journalists upon crossing the Wagah border, said that he had brought with him “a message of love and peace”.
“Ninety per cent of people in India want bilateral cricket between the two countries,” he said while responding to a question. “Art and artists work to bridge gaps between nations,” he added.
On Monday, Indian Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu laid the foundation stone for the construction of the corridor on the Indian side.
“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.
Earlier, Pakistan 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.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa in August this year renewed the proposal to construct that corridor which will provide visa-free access to Sikh pilgrims.
Gurdwara Kartarpur Darbar Sahib in Narowal, Pakistan is a revered site for the Sikh community. Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, lived there for 18 years till his death in 1539.