Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh warned Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Ahmed Bajwa of any ‘conspiracies’ and advised Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to “control the Army and ISI” and “stop the attacks on Indian soil”, during the he foundation stone-laying ceremony of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor in Gurdaspur Monday.
“It is my duty to maintain peace in Punjab. But there are people like Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa who want to create disturbances. I will not allow such conspiracies. Bajwa should wake up,” he said.
The historic event marks the corridor linking India’s border district of Gurdaspur with Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, after the Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi announced building the Kartarpur road corridor up to the international border between India and Pakistan to let Sikh pilgrims visit the gurdwara on the banks of the river Ravi in Pakistan.
Both Pakistan and India made the decision to allow the pilgrims visit the holy shrine without having to secure a visa.
The foundation stone in Gurdaspur was laid by Vice-President of India Venkaiah Naidu in the presence of the CM and Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari.
Amarinder said, “I have been in the Army. I am senior to the Pakistan Army chief. Every Army personnel knows what the other Army personnel is thinking. Who has taught us to attack people holding religious congregations? We Punjabis know how to give a befitting reply to such forces,” referring to the recent Amritsar grenade blast that left three people dead and 21 injured, with Amarinder ruling the grenade seemingly ‘carrying Pakistan’s signature’.
He warned the neighboring country’s government by stating that “there is a limit to tolerance” and that India has a “bigger army than Pakistan”. “Only the Army runs in the government in Pakistan. The Pakistan PM must control the Army and ISI. We have a bigger Army than Pakistan. There is a limit of tolerance,” he said.
The CM also maintained that he will not visit Pakistan till the neighbouring country put a stop on terror activities. “Stop the attacks on Indian soil. This is why I am not visiting Pakistan for their ground-breaking ceremony despite an invitation from them. As a Sikh, I want to attend the ceremony but am also the CM of Punjab. People are telling me on Facebook to go to Pakistan. But I cannot go until there is peace,” he said.
Singh has declined Pakistan’s invitation to attend their side’s ceremony on November 28, to be inaugurated by PM Imran Khan, citing ‘continued terrorist attacks’ in his state and ‘killings of Indian soldiers’ by the neighbour’s armed forces.
Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary informed on Friday that Punjab Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu would arrive in the country to attend the ceremony of the Kartarpur Border corridor, according to a media report.
Echoing the same sentiment, Vice-President Naidu said “using religion to attack us is not favourable to anyone”. “Some people are using religion to spread terrorism. But no religion has anything to do with terrorism. India never attacks any country. We don’t want to attack anyone. We want good relations with neighbours,” he said.
Naidu added, “Our PM had called all our neighbours for his oath-taking ceremony. He had also visited Lahore to attend a personal function without an invite. Some people have been using religion to attack us. It is not favourable to anyone. Our main challenges are to fight illiteracy and hunger. People want peace and harmony. It is only possible if both sides are working in synchronisation.”
Emphasising on the importance of promoting peace between the two countries, Naidu said, “Peace is the first condition of development. I hope people on the other side are also listening to what CM Singh and I have to say in this regard. The objective of this function is to work for peace.”
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari addressed the gathering during the ceremony and assured the completion of the corridor within four months.
Jammu and Kashmir National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah expressed happiness over the opening of the corridor hoping that the Kartarpur spirit would replicate itself in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Abdullah who represents the Srinagar parliamentary constituency said that the initiative will help the Sikh community to realize their long pending demand of paying obeisance at one of their holiest places located across the border.
“The invitation from Pakistan to Indian leaders and legislators on the opening ceremony of Kartarpur corridor will bequeath both India and Pakistan a chance to further the cause of brotherhood and amity. The initiative will help the people from across the border to get wind of cultural similarities between the two nations,” he said.
Earlier, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he hoped that the Kartarpur border would act as a bridge between India and Pakistan.
Underlining the strength of people-to-people contact, Modi said,”Had anyone ever thought that the Berlin Wall would fall. May be with the blessings of Guru Nanak Devji, this Kartarpur corridor will not just remain a corridor, but act as a bridge between the people of the two countries.”
Tensions had escalated after Sidhu visited Pakistan in August to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Imran Khan as the Prime Minister. He stated that Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had told him that Islamabad would open a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib in Narowal district of Pakistan on the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak in 2019, which had led him to, in an emotional moment, hug the chief.
Sidhu subsequently met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to initiate talks between India and Pakistan on the Kartarpur corridor issue. After the meeting, Akali leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal said Swaraj accused Sidhu of messing up the Kartarpur Sahib corridor dialogue and misusing the political clearance that he was granted to visit Pakistan.
Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, which is three kilometres from the India-Pakistan border, is the final resting place of Guru Nanak.
There have been long-standing demands from the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and political leaders to build a “corridor” for pilgrims to cross over into Pakistan to visit the Kartarpur Sahib shrine and return the same day.