Kartarpur corridor can build bridges: Venkaiah

Kartarpur corridor can build bridges: Venkaiah

Punjab CM lashes out at Pakistan for fomenting terror in the State

The Kartarpur corridor between India and Pakistan will “open new doors” and is a “unifier, building bridges across old chasms”, said Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu here on Monday, even as Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh lashed out at Pakistan for supporting terrorism in his State.

Nov. 2019 deadline

Mr. Naidu was joined by leaders from all political parties in Punjab to lay the foundation stone for the four-lane “human corridor” to be completed by November 23, 2019, in time for Sikh founding Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary, which was decided on by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a Cabinet meeting last week.ALSO READ Politics mars Kartarpur corridor event

Addressing thousands at a public rally organised for the event in the border town of Dera Baba Nanak, just 2 km from the International Border with Pakistan, Mr. Naidu said he hoped the corridor would “pave the way for peace and greater progress of all our people”.

On Wednesday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will lay the stone for construction of the corridor on the Pakistani side, about 4 km from the border.

‘Creating history’

The corridor will drastically cut down the journey pilgrims have to make from more than 200 km to just 6 km.

“That is the history we have to create together, a history that will make our two countries and the entire world a more peaceful place for our children and grandchildren to live and grow together,” Mr. Naidu said.

The Vice-President’s words on rapprochement were in sharp contrast to Capt. Singh, who has declined Mr. Khan’s invitation to be a part of the Kartarpur ceremony in Pakistan.ALSO READ Modi government can’t take credit for Kartarpur corridor, says Capt. Amarinder Singh

He cited continued firing at the LoC, and terrorist strikes, allegedly fomented by the Pakistan Army, including the most recent grenade attack in Amritsar that killed three people, as reasons for rejecting the invite.

“I want to directly address the Pakistani Army Chief,” Capt. Amarinder said. “I see people saying I should go to Pakistan [for the Kartarpur ceremony]. But I can’t go, because Pakistan’s government doesn’t have control of the situation and the Army is carrying out these attacks. I will not go until there is peace,” he said, adding that he would protect the State until “the last drop of his blood.”

Capt. Amarinder was referring to social media commentary that has credited his party colleague and minister Navjot Singh Sidhu for the move by Pakistan to build the corridor, a long-standing demand of the Sikh community.

In August, the Chief Minister had also been critical of Mr. Sidhu for embracing General Bajwa when he had first spoken of the Kartarpur corridor. Mr. Sidhu was not present at the foundation stone ceremony.

Sikh villagers from surrounding areas said they were eager for the border to open so they could walk to Kartarpur without visa restrictions, and cheered Minister of Road Transport Nitin Gadkari’s promise that the corridor on the Indian side would be ready in just four months. Now, pilgrims stop at the border and try to see the Kartarpur shrine through a pair of binoculars.

90-year-old Gurdiyal Singh has hardly any teeth left, but smiles broadly at the thought of going back to a shrine he visited when he was just nineteen. “I was young and strong in those days and went to Kartarpur with my family regularly,“ says Singh, who moved over from Pakistan’s Narowal district during partition in 1947. “But I still have the strength to go over now, and look eagerly forward to visiting Guru Nanak’s final resting place again,” he told The Hindu, in Punjabi.

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