India accepts Pak invite to mark corridor event

India accepts Pak invite to mark corridor event

Amritsar: Paper artist Gurpreet Singh shows his creation, a paper model of Guru Nanak Dev Ji's gurudwara (Kartarpur Sahib) in Pakistan, in Amritsar, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. The Indian government has given permissions to build a corridor on the Indian side which would felicitate pilgrims to go across the border to pay obeisance at the sacred Sikh shrine. (PTI Photo)

India on Saturday accepted an invitation from Pakistan to a ceremony, which would mark the beginning of construction of a corridor to facilitate Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit Guru Nanak’s final resting place in Kartarpur in the neighbouring country on November 28.

New Delhi accepted the invitation from Islamabad even as it issued a demarche to Islamabad on Friday protesting against the way Indian Sikh pilgrims were greeted at the shrines in Pakistan this week with posters and processions calling for the secession of 'Khalistan' from India.

Union Minister for Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Housing and Urban Development Hardip Singh Puri will represent India in the ceremony.  Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan would break the ground to formally commence construction of the corridor from the India-Pakistan border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur on the bank of the river Ravi in Narowal district of the neighbouring country.

The ceremony is now to see the first ever engagement between the two governments after Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf came to power in Islamabad and the cricketer-turned-politician took over as Prime Minister of Pakistan.

India is also set to build a corridor from Dera Baba Nanak at Gurdaspur in Punjab to the border between India and Pakistan. Once the corridors are built on both sides of the borders, the pilgrims from India will be able to visit the shrine in Pakistan without requiring passports and visas.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj herself received the invitation from her counterpart Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to visit Kartarpur. Qureshi invited Swaraj, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and the State's Tourism and Culture Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to attend the ceremony on November 28.

Swaraj wrote back to Qureshi thanking him for the invitation to her but added that she, herself, would not be able to travel to Kartarpur due to her “prior commitments” that day, including participating in election campaigning in poll-bound Telangana.