Union Minister Sushma Swaraj will not visit Pakistan to attend the ground-breaking ceremony for the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims but two of her cabinet colleagues will attend it.
India will send Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri, her office said on Saturday while responding to an invite to her by Islamabad for the event.
Earlier in the day, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in a tweet, said he has extended an invitation to Ms Swaraj, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and state minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to attend the ceremony at Kartarpur on November 28.
In a letter to Qureshi, Ms Swaraj thanked him for the invite but said it would not be possible for her to travel to Kartarpur Sahib due to prior commitments.
The visit of the two Union ministers to Pakistan is expected to ease tension between the two countries.
“Being mindful of the sentiments of our Sikh citizens and the importance of facilitating their smooth and easy access to holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, we will be sending Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the Minister for Food Processing and Industries, and Hardeep Singh Puri, the Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs, as the Government of India’s representatives for the event planned for November 28,” she said in the letter.
Saturday’s development comes after India on Thursday decided to build a corridor from Gurdaspur district in Punjab to the International Border with Pakistan ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
The proposal for a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib, the place where the holy gurdwara, built on the site where Guru Nanak made his last journey in 1539, is located, has been a longstanding demand from India for two decades years.
In her letter to Qureshi, Sushma Swaraj added that, “It is our hope that the government of Pakistan will expedite the construction of the corridor in order to ensure that our citizens can pay their respect at the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor as soon as possible.”
New Delhi’s decision comes amid continued rows over Islamabad’s denial of consular access to Sikh pilgrims visiting pilgrimage sites there.
On Friday, India strongly protested Pakistan’s denial of consular access to Sikh pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Nankana Sahib and Gurudwara Sacha Sauda on the occasion of the 549th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
(With agency inputs)