KARTARPUR: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Prakash Singh Badal were among the Indian leaders who described the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor as a momentous occasion in ties between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan formally inaugurated the historic corridor to facilitate the visa-free entry of Indian Sikh pilgrims.
"It is a big moment in the India-Pakistan relationship. It is good for both the countries that the corridor has been opened. The ties will improve significantly as a result of this new beginning," Singh told reporters.
Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said those expressing apprehension that the corridor may be used to encourage separatism in Punjab do not have faith in the great Guru Nanak Devji, the founder of Sikhism.
The Kartarpur corridor facilitating Indian pilgrims to visit one of Sikhism's holiest shrines in the Pakistani town of Narowal was thrown open by Prime Minister Imran Khan amid fanfare and presence of several thousand Sikhs.
The corridor links Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur in India to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak.
"The apprehensions are by those people who do not have faith in the great Guru Nanak," Badal said on the sidelines of the inauguration of the corridor while replying to a question.
Earlier this week, Indian government sources said the Pakistan Army was pushing for the Kartarpur corridor with an aim to encourage Khalistani elements in Punjab.
SAD leader and former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal also hailed the initiative of setting up of the corridor and said it will result in better people-to-people ties between the two countries.
"Today is the happiest day in my life," Singh told PTI.
Harsimrat said the entire Sikh community is grateful to both the Indian and Pakistani governments for implementing the Kartarpur Corridor project.
"It is a very positive beginning which I am sure with the grace of Guru Nanak Devji will lead to better relations between the two countries. It is a corridor of peace," she said.
"We have been praying for this for last 72 years. Many governments have come and gone. It has taken Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan-ji and our Prime Minister Narendra Modiji to make this a reality," she said.
Union Urban Development Minister Hardeep Puri also hoped that the initiative will lead to better ties between the two neighbours.
"Hope it will provide an opening for mature counsels to prevail so that peace and brotherhood can be facilitated," he said.
Member of the European Parliament Neena Gill lauded both India and Pakistan for the initiative.
"It is a very auspicious occasion today," the first woman Sikh MEP said.
Several Indian pilgrims who were part of the first jatha to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor said USD 20 facilitation fee was taken from each of them and that passport had to be shown to enter Pakistan.