ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday it was foolish to believe that two nuclear-armed nations could go to war with each other, adding that peace was the only way forward for both India and Pakistan.
Addressing the audience at the historic groundbreaking ceremony for a corridor at Kartarpur -- which once complete, would help connect Sikhs from both the countries -- he urged the two South Asian nations to let go of the baggage of their checkered history. “As long as we don’t break the shackles of the past, we will remain captive to it. The blame game will continue and the two countries will persist with point scoring,” he said.
Khan noted that everyone in Pakistan, including his government, the opposition parties, the army, and other state institutions, unanimously sought peace with India. He reiterated that his country would also take two steps toward friendship if India only took one.
Earlier in the day, Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson said that his country’s decision to facilitate a visa-free entry for Sikh pilgrims from India was “a very positive development for minorities” in the region.
While talking to Arab News, Dr Muhammad Faisal added that India, too, had appreciated the initiative. “[The idea] has found success and traction with the Indian side which is very, very good,” he said.
Dr Faisal made the comments before beginning his journey to Kartarpur to attend the ceremony. Several high-profile dignitaries, including politicians and media personnel from India, also participated in the event. “This was Prime Minister of Pakistan’s initiative. We welcome the Indian ministers who are coming here today,” he added.
Talking to a group of local journalists, he said that the corridor’s construction would ensure a seamless flow of Sikh pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Narowal District throughout the year. The shrine is located three kilometers away from the India-Pakistan border and is considered as the holiest place by members of the Sikh community, as it is the final resting place of Sikhism’s founder, Guru Nanak.
Pakistan expects to complete the project before November 2019, prior to Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had also invited his Indian counterpart to attend Wednesday’s event. However, Indian External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj had said that she would not be able to visit Pakistan due to “prior commitments”.
Dr Faisal, nevertheless, told journalists on Wednesday that the inauguration of the project could “lead to further opportunities in the coming days”, hoping that authorities in New Delhi would also reciprocate Islamabad’s friendly diplomatic gestures.
His sentiment was also echoed by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi who said in an interview with BBC Urdu that the corridor would pave way for dialogue between India and Pakistan and iron out the differences between the two countries.
However, Swaraj, on her part, said that while she welcomed Pakistan’s decision to accept “India’s longstanding demand” to develop the corridor, dialogue between the two states had nothing to do with Islamabad’s decision to initiate the project.
The overall mood in Pakistan still remained jubilant, and the military’s media wing quoted the army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa as saying that the move is “a step towards peace which our region’s needs”. General Bajwa welcomed the initiative by pointing out that “barbed wires at borders” were a measure taken by sovereign nations to check and deny illegal crossings. Corridors and gates, on the other hand, were “for legal peaceful visitors”.