Kartarpur Corridor: Navjot Sidhu accepts Pakistan's invite, Amarinder rejects it citing Islamabad's role in Punjab attacks

Punjab Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Sunday accepted Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi's invitation to attend the opening ceremony of Kartarpur corridor, slated for 28 November.

In a letter to Pakistan's foreign minister, Sidhu stated, "It is with great honour and unalloyed joy that I accept your invitation to attend the ground-breaking ceremony at Kartarpur Sahib on 28 November. I look forward to meeting you on this historic occasion."

"This day will indeed break ground. As our two nations take this first step, the Kartarpur spirit can make pilgrims of us all, venturing out on a journey that breaks the barriers of history and opens the borders of the heart and the mind. A journey that our people can walk together towards, a future of shared peace and prosperity for India and Pakistan," Sidhu's letter read.

Conversely, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh has rejected the offer to attend, citing continued terrorist attacks in the state and the various killings of Indian soldiers by Pakistani armed forces.

"Firstly, not a day passes when Indian soldiers are not killed or wounded on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. Rather than moving towards normalcy, these incidents are escalating," Singh said. Secondly, the chief minister claimed, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has started its nefarious activities in Punjab.

"Since March 2017, the state has neutralised 19 ISI-armed and controlled modules, apprehended 81 terrorists and seized 79 weapons, numerous grenades of the HG-84 type made in Pakistan's Ordnance factories with Austrian know how, and some IEDs," the chief minister claimed.

The last attack took place in Amritsar few days ago, on a peaceful religious congregation in a village. Three men were killed and 19, including women and children, were wounded, Singh said, adding that the terrorists had been caught.

"I hope that the prime minister (of Pakistan) will understand these circumstances... It will not be possible for me to be present in Pakistan on this historic occasion, despite the fact that paying my respects at Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib has always been my cherished dream which will hopefully be fulfilled once these hostilities and killings are stopped," he said.

Qureshi had also extended an invitation to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday.

In a letter to Qureshi, Swaraj thanked him for the invite and said she was unable to travel to Kartarpur Sahib due to prior commitments including election campaign in Telangana and that India will be represented at the ceremony by Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri.

Swaraj also hoped that the government of Pakistan will expedite the construction of the corridor in order to ensure that "our citizens can pay their respects at the Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor as soon as possible".

Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the groundbreaking ceremony of the facilities on the Pakistani side on 28 November.

The move to open the corridor could break the chill in bilateral ties. 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.

India called off a meeting between Swaraj and Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September, citing the "brutal" killing of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir and the release of the postal stamps "glorifying" Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday hoped that the Kartarpur corridor would act as a bridge between the peoples of India and Pakistan that might lead to a better future as he referred to the fall of the Berlin Wall to underline the importance of people-to-people contact.

Pakistan's foreign office on Friday said the "Kartarpur Spirit can be a step forward in the right direction from conflict to cooperation, animosity to peace and enmity to friendship."

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Nov 25, 2018 20:53:13 IST

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