India slams the Pakistani prime minister for 'unwarranted reference to J&K' during pious occasion.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that his government, the army and all political parties in the country are on the same page to improve ties with India, asserting that all issues, including Kashmir, can be resolved with "strength and will" of leadership of the two countries.
Khan made a strong pitch for better ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbours after laying the foundation stone for the historic Kartarpur Corridor linking two revered gurdwaras on both sides of the border in Kartarpur.
However, India termed Khan's reference to Kashmir as "deeply regrettable" and said he chose to politicise a pious moment.
The ministry of external affairs said Jammu and Kashmir was an "integral and inalienable" part of India.
"It is deeply regrettable that the Prime Minister of Pakistan chose to politicise the pious occasion meant to realise the long pending demand of the Sikh community to develop a Kartarpur corridor by making unwarranted reference to Jammu and Kashmir which is an integral and inalienable part of India," the ministry said.
It added that Pakistan must fulfil its international obligations and take effective and credible action to stop providing shelter and all kinds of support to cross border terrorism from territories under its control.
Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in Hyderabad that there will be no dialogue with Pakistan unless it desists from terrorist activities against India.
She also said the Kartarpur corridor initiative -- connecting Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev's final resting place in Kartarpur to the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India's Gurdaspur district -- was not linked to the dialogue process with Pakistan.
Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and India's Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri and cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu were present during the groundbreaking ceremony.
Addressing a gathering later, Khan said Pakistan and India cannot understand the opportunities God has given to them. He said whenever he visited India, he was told that politicians are united, but the (Pakistan) army won't allow the friendship between the two sides.
"I am telling you, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the ruling party, other political parties and (Pakistan's) armed forces are on one page...We want to move ahead. We want a civilised relationship with India.
"Both countries are nuclear armed. We both have atomic weapons...It is madness for such countries to think (of a war). Only a foolish individual can think one can win a nuclear war," he said.
Emphasising on improvement of Indo-Pak ties, Khan said there was need for "showing strength, will and determination" at the level of the leadership.
"If France and Germany who fought several wars can live in peace, why can't India and Pakistan," the prime minister said in Urdu.
"We have just one problem, Kashmir. If man can walk on the moon, what problems are there that we cannot resolve? We only need determined leadership on both sides," he said and reiterated that if India takes one step forward, Pakistan will take two steps forward in friendship.
Khan said that there have been "mistakes on both sides" and asserted that the two sides should not live in the past.
"Where Pakistan and India stand today, we have seen such a situation for 70 years now," Khan said.
"We will stay stuck this way unless we break the shackles of the past and stop blaming each other," he said, adding that the two neighbours must improve their ties.
He said the citizens of both countries want peace and it is just the leadership which needs to be on same page.
The much-awaited corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur -- the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev -- with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India's Gurdaspur district and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur.
Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is located across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. It was established in 1522 by Guru Nanak Dev who is believed to have spent 18 years here. The first Gurdwara, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, was built here, where Guru Nanak is said to have died.
Prime Minister Khan appreciated the joy on the faces around him.
"The happiness I see in you today, if I were to explain to my Muslim brother and sisters, is that imagine that you are standing 4-km outside Medina (a city in Saudi Arabia where the Prophet is buried) and cannot go in, and you are then given the chance to go. That is the happiness I see here," he said.
He assured the Sikh community that facilities at Kartarpur Sahib will be even better for 550th birth celebrations for Guru Nanak Dev next year.
"We will keep improving the Kartarpur darbar for you," he told thousands of Sikh pilgrims from both India and Pakistan who were present at the ceremony.
Khan said India and Pakistan need more steps like this (Kartarpur Corridor) for peace in the South Asian region.
Praising Sidhu's effort for peace between the two countries, Khan said he had become very popular in Pakistan and if he ran in elections here, he would win.
"I hope we do not have to wait till Sidhu becomes Wazir-e-Azam (prime minister)... I want good relationship with India. People want peace," he said.
Sidhu, who spoke at the event, said there had been enough violence and that the corridor would be a major opportunity to bring peace to the region.
Harsimrat Kaur, who also spoke on the occasion, said if the Berlin Wall can fall, hatred and mistrust between India and Pakistan can also end.
An emotional Kaur said the corridor will bring joy and peace to both countries.
The Kartarpur Corridor, which will facilitate the visa-free travel of Indian Sikh pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, is expected to be completed within six months.
Thousands of Sikh devotees from India visit Pakistan every year to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
India had proposed the corridor to Pakistan around 20 years back.
The issue of Kartarpur Sahib came into focus after Sidhu visited Pakistan in August to attend the oath-taking ceremony of his cricketer-turned-politician friend Khan as prime minister of that country.
After his return, Sidhu said that Pakistan Army chief Gen Bajwa had told him that Pakistan may open a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib.