New Delhi: Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Sunday slammed Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu and Pakistan for using the Kartarpur Corridor for political gains. In an exclusive interview to Hindustan Times, he said, “I believe Navjot Singh Sidhu is being used. He should have realised that a religious pilgrimage is not a laughter challenge. Time for him to do some serious introspection.”

He further accused Sidhu and Pakistan of playing with the religious sentiments. Puri and Harsimrat Kaur Badal, and Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu had attended the groundbreaking ceremony of the corridor in Pakistan on November 28. (ALSO READ: Kartarpur Corridor: Pakistan Calls India’s Response to Invite Positive; Sushma Swaraj, Amarinder Not to go)

Meanwhile, Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu said, “Navjot ji has repeatedly said that Captain Sahab is like his father. We have always made it clear that Capt Sahab’s respect and honour is above everything. Sidhu’s statements should be read as a whole and not in incomplete bits.”

It is to be noted here that this corridor was a long-standing demand of the Sikh community. The Kartarpur corridor is expected to be completed within six months. (Also read: Centre Approves Kartarpur Sahib Corridor)

Indian Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had laid the foundation stone of the corridor in Gurdaspur on November 26.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had ruled out any bilateral dialogue with Pakistan unless terror from there stopped. Swaraj said that terror and talks can’t go together. Her reaction came amidst the opening of Kartarpur corridor.

Talking to reporters in the national capital, Swaraj had said, “For many years the Indian Government has been asking for this (Kartarpur) corridor, only now Pakistan responded positively. It doesn’t mean the bilateral dialogue will start because of this, terror and talks can’t go together.

Pakistan had invited Navjot Singh Sidhu, Sushma Swaraj, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to attend the ceremony but Sushma Swaraj had expressed inability to attend the ceremony citing her prior commitments. While Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had also declined the invitation citing terror attacks and killings of Indian soldiers by Pakistan armed forces, his Cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu accepted it.

Both India and Pakistan had agreed to open the corridor for the Sikh devotees for Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary.  The decision came after Narendra Modi-led government had 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 Kartarpur in Pakistan.

Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is located across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. It was established by the Sikh Guru in 1522. The first Gurdwara, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, was built here, where Guru Nanak Dev is said to have died.

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, Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesman Mohammad Faisal had said on Tuesday.

The development comes ahead of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary next year. Thousands of Sikh devotees from India visit Pakistan every year to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.