KARTARPUR, Pakistan / NEW DELHI: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday linked the prosperity of the South Asian region to resolving the Kashmir conflict, insisting that both Pakistan and India could coexist in peace, like Germany and France, if they succeeded in ending the 72-year-old border issue.
He was speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor at the Katarpur Sahib Gurdawar, nearly 4 km from the Indian border point that divides the two countries.
“I welcome you all and first of all congratulate the Sikh community all over the world on the 550th birthday of their Guru Nanak. Pakistan has completed an uphill task of completing the project in a mere 10 months. I never knew that we can do this in such short time. It means that we could do more work,” he said, adding that the message of Guru Nanak was to propagate love instead of hate, urging Sikhs to continue with the cause.
He added that the only way for Pakistan and India to be good neighbors, make progress and uplift the lives of their countrymen was by resolving the Kashmir issue.
“I attended a conference in India headed by Manmohan Singh, then prime minister, where he said that ‘all of South Asia can rise if we solve Kashmir.’ And that is what I told Modi.
This is the biggest and happiest day for the Sikh community.
Manmohan Singh, Former prime minister of India
“Unfortunately, Kashmir has gone beyond a territorial issue. This is an issue of humanity, not a territorial dispute and I am sad about it.
“When this problem is solved and Kashmiris get their rights, the subcontinent will see prosperity and our entire region will rise in the world, and I pray that day is not far,” he said, ending his speech with a question: “If France and Germany can live together, do business and open borders after many wars, why don’t we?”
On the other side of the border, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked Khan for facilitating the Kartarpur project.
“I thank Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. He understood India’s feelings on the Kartarpur Corridor issue, gave respect and, keeping in view those feelings, worked accordingly,” Modi said at the opening of the Kartarpur project at Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district of India’s Panjab.
He flagged off the first group of 550 pilgrims visiting Kartarpur at the inauguration of the corridor.
The Kartarpur Corridor connects Dera Baba Nanak (the birth place of Sikh’s first saint Guru Nanak) in India’s Panjab with Darbar Sahib gurdwara (Nanak’s resting place) in Kartarpur, Pakistan. The Sikh Guru spent his last 18 years in Kartarpur.