CHANDIGARH: Soon after Pakistan announced on Friday that it would temporarily open the Kartarpur border corridor for Sikh pilgrims from India on the 550 birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, Punjab local bodies minister Navjot Sidhu welcomed the decision and thanked Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for it. The Kartarpur gurdwara is just four kilometres from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district of Punjab.
Sidhu said, "I thank my friend Imran Khan. They (Pakistan) are ready to open the corridor of Kartarpur Sahib, situated in Narowal district of Punjab, on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. There can be no bigger happiness than this for the people of Punjab, as this has been a desire of millions of Sikh devotees, which is being fulfilled."
The cricketer-turned-politician appreciated Khan's decision to keep politics separate from religion and said the move would bring the two countries closer. "I will be part of the first lot of pilgrimage if I am allowed. My friend Imran Khan has made my life successful. He separated politics from religion,'' said Sidhu.
"I plead to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the external affairs ministry that if they have made an effort, you should also make an effort. This is not the time for religion-based politics. This is the message from Pakistan to the whole world. Don't think that anyone can oppose this noble gesture," said Sidhu.
Guru Nanak, the first Sikh guru, breathed his last in Kartarpur and his birth anniversary will be observed in November 2019.
Sidhu had attended the swearing-in ceremony of Imran Khan in Islamabad on August 18 and courted controversy by hugging Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. He later said the hug was an emotional gesture as Bajwa had told him that they were making efforts to open the corridor to Kartarpur Sahib. The hug had been criticised by even Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, besides the Opposition.
On August 22, Amarinder Singh had written a letter to Union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to take up with her Pakistani counterpart the issue of having a corridor opened from the international border to Kartarpur so that devotees could visit the historic gurdwara during the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
"The corridor will alotees to visit the gurdwara in Kartarpur, which is located across the Ravi, around 4 km from the international border near Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district," the letter stated.
The letter was written by Amarinder after Sidhu visited Pakistan on August 16.