Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that Pakistan wants a “strong” and “civilised” relationship with India, adding that his country’s “civilian and military leadership are on same page on this”.
“For 70 years, we have been fighting with each other… India points fingers at Pakistan, and Pakistan points fingers at India. There have been mistakes on both sides, but how long must we keep play this blame-game? Every time we take one step ahead, we slide two steps behind,” he said.
Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony for the corridor to Kartarpur Sahib, Khan raised the Kashmir issue saying that “two capable leaderships” to resolve it.
“The only issue between us is Kashmir, all it needs is just two capable leaderships to resolve this issue. Just imagine the potential we have if our relationships get strong,” he said.
Pushing his call for peace between the nations, Khan cited the example of France and Germany France and Germany, which were on opposite sides of the battleground during the Second World War.
Khan also came in defence of Punjab Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu for being criticised by several Indian leaders for visiting Pakistan to attend the former’s oath-taking ceremony and hugging Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa.
He also joked that Sidhu will win hands down if he contests elections in Pakistan.
“I heard there was a lot of criticism of Sidhu when he went back after my oath-taking ceremony. I don’t know why was he criticised. He was just talking about peace and brotherhood,” he said.
He said Sidhu has such a large fan following in Pakistan, specially in the country’s Punjab province, that if he ran in elections here, he would win.
“He can come and contest election here in Pakistan’s Punjab, he’ll win,” the cricketer-turned-politician said about Sidhu.
“Hopefully we will not have to wait for Sidhu to become prime minister for relations to improve between the two countries and before that, Indian leadership will take positive steps,” Khan said.
Khan’s praise for his ‘friend’ Sidhu came after the latter said: “Long live India, long live Pakistan. My yaar, dildaar Imran Khan has ended 70 years of wait”.
Sidhu described the Kartarpur Corridor as a major opportunity to open the hearts of the people in the two neighbouring countries.
Sidhu, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor on the Pakistani side, said both the government should realise that they have to move forward.
He said there had been enough bad blood and that the corridor would be a major opportunity to open the doors of the hearts of the people. “Violence must stop and peace should return to the region,” he said.
Sidhu said that both the nations should seek a path of brotherhood and live in harmony without any fear with the blessing of Guru Nanak Dev.
Sidhu said that if the borders between both countries opened, it would be possible to transport goods to different parts of Pakistan and even others countries.
“This is my hope, this is my dream … While there is blood in my veins, I will continue to thank both governments,” he said.
“My father used to tell me that Punjab Mail went till Lahore, I believe that it can go further till Peshawar, till Afghanistan,” he said.
Pro-Khalistani leader Gopal Chawla was filmed meeting Pakistan’s army chief today on the sidelines of the ground-breaking ceremony.
The ground-breaking ceremony came on a days when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj declared that there will be no dialogue with Pakistan unless it desists from terrorist activities against India. Swaraj’s statement was a rebuff to Pakistan a day after Islamabad said it would invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the SAARC summit.
“That invitation has already been given. But, we are not responding to it positively. Because, as I said, that unless and until Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India, there will be no dialogue and we will not participate in SAARC,” Swaraj told a press conference.
Imran Khan Lays Foundation Stone For Kartarpur Corridor
Khan laid the foundation stone for a corridor linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur – the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev – to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district to facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims.
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.
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.
India had proposed the corridor to Pakistan around 20 years back.
India was represented by Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri at the event. Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu also attended the ceremony.
Last week, Pakistan and India announced that they would develop the corridor on their respective side of the border to help Indian pilgrims visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.
India-Pakistan ties nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place. The ties between the two countries had strained after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016.
Pakistan had invited External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who thanked her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi for the invite and said she was unable to travel to Kartarpur Sahib due to prior commitments.
The issue of Kartarpur Sahib came into focus after Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu visited Pakistan in August to attend the oath-taking ceremony of his cricketer-turned-politician friend Imran Khan as prime minister of that country.
After his return, Sidhu said that Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa had told him that Pakistan may open a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib.
Sidhu has already arrived in Lahore with a group of Indian journalists to attend the ground breaking ceremony on Wednesday.