At the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kartarpur corridor project on Wednesday, Indian Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu shared the front seat with Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan and his foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
India's Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Puri also attended the ceremony as representatives after crossing over to Pakistan through the Attari-Wagah joint check post between the two countries. Congress MP from Amritsar Gurjeet Singh Aujla and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Gobind Singh Longowal were also present at the ceremony.
The Pakistani media widely covered the event, with news channels like the State-owned PTV, GeoTV, Express News broadcasting a common coverage of the ceremony.
Pakistan's oldest newspaper Dawn ran a live blog on its website, like many other prominent news portals. It carried detailed quotes from Khan's speech and noted that Sidhu was "among the prominent guests" invited to the ceremony.
After Khan laid the foundation stone, the Indian guests including Harsimrat sprinkled "amrat jal" — the holy water from the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
In its live blog, The Express Tribune noted that Gurjeet Singh Aujla walked barefoot to Lahore "as a mark of respect." However, it claimed that the Narendra Modi government was earlier "in a quandary, displeased with" the development on the project but was "unwilling to alienate the Sikh sentiment". "Finally, it accepted the proposal; announcing it would construct the road on its side, and send two ministers to the groundbreaking ceremony by Imran Khan on Pakistan’s side," the live blog said.
During his speech, Imran Khan said that Pakistan wants to "move forward in our relations with India". He said: "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?"
After the event wrapped up, a news anchor on PTV said that Imran Khan gave an "open-hearted" speech, while claiming that the Pakistani prime minister had shown the entire world that his country doesn't just want harmony, but also peace. She further said that his words might have struck a chord with the Indian leadership. "But it remains to see how they respond," she said.
The corridor will link 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.
Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is located across the river Ravi, 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 gurdwara, which fell in Pakistan territory following the Partition of India in August 1947, has big significance in Sikhism and history.
For the past over 71 years, ever since Partition, Sikhs have been offering prayers near the international border while seeing the gurdwara from a distance.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Nov 28, 2018 18:50:25 IST