India will send Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri to Pakistan next week to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said while responding to an invite to her by Islamabad for the event.
Earlier, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in a tweet, said he has extended an invitation to Swaraj, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and state minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to attend the ceremony at Kartarpur on November 28.
In a letter to Qureshi, Swaraj thanked him for the invite but said it would not be possible for her to travel to Kartarpur Sahib due to prior commitments, and India will send Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Puri for the event.
The visit of the two Union ministers to Pakistan is expected to ease tension between the two countries.
“Being mindful of the sentiments of our Sikh citizens and the importance of facilitating their smooth and easy access to holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, we will be sending Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the minister for food processing and industries, and Hardeep Singh Puri, the minister of state for housing and urban affairs, as the Government of India’s representatives for the event planned for November 28,” she said in the letter.
On Thursday, both countries announced that they would develop Kartarpur corridor in their respective areas, linking Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district with the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan.
Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, is located across the Ravi river in Pakistan and is about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of Punjab in India.
The corridor, once built, will give Indian pilgrims easy access to the shrine.
In her letter to Qureshi, 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.”
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the groundbreaking ceremony of the corridor on the Pakistani side on November 28.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday hoped the Kartarpur corridor would act as a bridge between the peoples of India and Pakistan. He even referred to the fall of the Berlin Wall to underline the importance of the corridor.
The Union Cabinet on Thursday cleared a proposal to develop a corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the International Border to facilitate Indian pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan.
Following the Cabinet decision, India urged Pakistan to build the corridor to Kartarpur Sahib on the Pakistani side.
Later, Qureshi said Islamabad has conveyed to India its decision to build the Kartarpur corridor.
The issue of Kartarpur Sahib came into focus after Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu visited Pakistan in August to attend the oath-taking ceremony of his cricketer-turned-politician friend Imran Khan as the prime minister of that country.
After his return, Sidhu said that Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa had told him that the country may open a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib.
The 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.