We want better Indo-Pak ‘civilised’ ties, but Kashmir is the only hurdle; Sidhu can win poll even in Pakistan, asserts Khan
On the occasion of the groundbreaking ceremony for the historic Kartarpur Corridor on Wednesday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan pitched for “strong and civilised” relationship with India but asserted that they have “one issue, which is Kashmir”. There was a need for “showing strength, will and determination” by the leadership of the two countries to resolve all issues, Khan said and emphasised that both countries are nuclear armed and “only a foolish individual can think one can win a nuclear war”.
However, Khan didn’t mention terrorism in his address at the event, attended by Indian Union Ministers — Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri — and Punjab State Minister Navjot Singh Sindhu among others.
Eyebrows were raised on Wednesday when a prominent pro-Khalistan separatist leader was seen shaking hands with Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa during the ceremony. When asked, a Pakistani official said Gopal Singh Chawla is a senior leader of Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee and he is invited to all events involving the Sikh community.
While citing example of France and Germany who fought several wars and are now living in peace with each other, Khan said his Government, the Army and all political parties were for “strong and civilised” ties with India. “I am telling you, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the ruling party, other political parties and armed forces are on one page...We want to move ahead. We want a civilised relationship with India,” Khan said.
There have been “mistakes on both sides” and the two sides should not live in the past, he said. “We have one issue, which is Kashmir. Humans have reached the Moon. Which issue can’t be solved? Cannot we solve one issue? We only need determined leadership on both sides. There is no issue which cannot be resolved,” he said and reiterated that if India moves one step forward, Pakistan will take two steps forward.
The much-awaited Kartarpur 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 Sahib, which was established in 1522 by Guru Nanak Dev. Khan said India and Pakistan need more steps like this (Kartarpur Corridor) for peace in the South Asian region.
“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 the 550th birth celebrations of 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.
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.
The Kartarpur Corridor 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.
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.