Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the Kartarpur corridor, thanking Pakistan premier Imran Khan for respecting Indian sentiments towards the shrine across the border that marks the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev.
"I thank Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi,” he told a gathering about eight kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak gurdwara, where he later flagged off the first batch of pilgrims to the shrine.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh was part of the first jatha of over 400 pilgrims.
Thanking Imran Khan at the meeting at a Border Security Force camp in Shikhaar Masiahan, Modi said, "He understood India's feelings on the Kartarpur corridor issue gave them respect and worked accordingly."
"I also want to thank workers in Pakistan who worked at a fast pace, helping in building the portion of the corridor on their side," he said.
The corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Indian Punjab's Gurdaspur district, just four kilometres apart across the border. Before flagging off the first 'jatha', Modi chatted briefly with Manmohan Singh, who was accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur.
Other members of the delegation included Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Union ministers Hardeep Puri and Som Prakash.
Former Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal, his son and Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and daughter-in-law and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal were also part of the delegation led by Akal Takht Jathedar Harpreet Singh.
Gurdaspur MLA Sunny Deol was part of this group.
The corridor, which allows visa-free access to the shrine where Sikhism's founder Guru Nanak Dev spent his final years, has been thrown open just ahead of his 550th birth anniversary on November 12.
The prime minister inaugurated the passenger terminal on the Indian side of the four-kilometre corridor and also attended a 'langar' along with Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore, Amarinder Singh and state Congress president Sunil Jakhar.
The state-of-the-art passenger terminal building, its design inspired by 'khanda', which a symbol of faith in Sikh community, has been constructed on 18 acres of land.
Modi said it was his fortune that he was dedicating the corridor to the nation.
"I am feeling blessed on this holy land... At this moment I get the same feeling all of you get at the time of doing 'kar sewa' (religious service)," the prime minister said.
He congratulated everybody in the crowd, the country and Sikhs the world over on the occasion.
Modi said he dedicated the Kaumi Seva award given to him by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) to Guru Nanak Dev, he said.
The opening of the corridor and the Integrated Check Post before the 550th 'Prakash Purb' of Guru Nanak Dev has brought 'double delight', he said.
"With this corridor, paying obeisance at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib will become easy. I express gratitude to the Punjab government, the SGPC and all the workers who were involved in building this corridor," he said.
Guru Nanak Dev, Modi said, is not the legacy of Sikhs alone but an inspiration for entire humanity, he said.
"Besides being a guru, Guru Nanak Dev is a thought, the basis of life. Our values, culture, our thoughts, our thinking, our upbringing, our reasoning, our speech, all of these have been honed by pious souls like Guru Nanak," he said.
When Guru Nanak Dev set out on his travels from Sultanpur Lodhi, who knew what change he would usher, he Modi said.
He said the Guru himself had proclaimed that he had set out on the 'yatras' to pull society out of injustice, darkness and inequalities.
He also touched the issue of environment and drugs on the occasion.
"We have become irresponsible about the environment," the prime minister said. Modi released commemorative coins, with a face value of Rs 550 value, and a postage stamp.
Imran Khan inaugurates Kartarpur corridor, welcomes pilgrims
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday formally inaugurated the historic Kartarpur corridor to facilitate the visa-free entry of Indian Sikh pilgrims to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev.
Khan inaugurated the corridor by removing a curtain that was lifted by hot air balloons in the presence of thousands of Sikhs from across the world including India. A huge 'kirpan' (dagger) was displayed at the inauguration site.
"I am happy we could do this for you," he told a gathering of over 12,000 devotees, including former prime minister Manmohan Singh and cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu.
"Believe me, I had no idea of the importance this place holds; I found out a year ago," he said.
During his brief address, Khan raked up the Kashmir issue and said it has resulted 70 years of hatred between India and Pakistan.
"The resolution of the Kashmir issue will lead to greater prosperity and mutual development of India and Pakistan," Khan said.
"India must ensure justice to people of Kashmir," he said, referring to the abrogation of the Article 370 and communication blackout in the Valley.
He hoped that one day the relationship between the two neighbours will improve.
Citing the examples of Prophet Muhammad, Nelson Mandela and Sufi saints, Khan said a true leader always brings people together.
"I am always so happy to see the Sikh community who have come here. God lives in the hearts of all of us. All the messengers who have come and gone only ever brought two messages, that of peace and justice," he said.
Earlier, Khan visited different units of Gurdawara Darbar Sahib.
Prime Minister Khan welcomed the first batch of the Indian Sikh pilgrims who entered Pakistan through the corridor which links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab's Gurdaspur.
Khan shook hand with former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and exchanged pleasantries.
Speaking on the occasion, Sidhu told Khan, "You have won hearts."
Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri said the opening of the Kartapur corridor is "the biggest message of peace and love" since Partition.
In his address, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the doors of Kartarpur have been opened for Sikh pilgrims.
"If the Berlin Wall can be demolished, if the Kartarpur Corridor can be opened, then the temporary boundary of the Line of Control can also be ended," Qureshi said, raking up the Kashmir issue during his address on the occasion.
The opening of the Kartarpur corridor will ‘enormously improve’ relations between India and Pakistan, former prime minister Manmohan Singh said.