In a landmark decision, the Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the construction and development of the Kartarpur Corridor from the Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district to the International Border.
Punjab government sources said President Ram Nath Kovind and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh will lay the foundation stone of Kartarpur Corridor at Dera Baba Nanak on November 26.
Kartarpur Sahib is situated in Narowal district of Pakistan's Punjab province and there have been demands to build a corridor linking it with Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district of Punjab.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh confirmed the news on Twitter. He said; " In a landmark decision, Cabinet approves building and development of Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district to International Border. Kartarpur corridor project with all modern amenities and facilities to be implemented with Central Government funding".
In landmark decision, the Cabinet approves building and development of Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district to International Border. Kartarpur corridor project with all modern amenities and facilities to be implemented with Central Government funding.— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) November 22, 2018
He added: "The Kartarpur corridor will provide smooth & easy passage to pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib throughout the year. Government of Pakistan will be urged to reciprocate and develop a corridor with suitable facilities in their territory".
The Kartarpur corridor will provide smooth and easy passage to pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib throughout the year. Government of Pakistan will be urged to reciprocate and develop a corridor with suitable facilities in their territory.— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) November 22, 2018
At a press conference after the decision was announced, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley outlined the Cabinet's plan in detail, saying that the Centre is looking to expand its support for the Sikh community. He also announced the government's plan to develop Punjab's heritage town of Sultanpur Lodhi, which is of religious significance to the Sikh community. The town will also be developed on the principles of a Smart City.
The central government will also set up a centre for interfaith studies at Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, Jaitley said. An international seminar on the life and teachings of Shri Guru Nanak Devji will also be organised in New Delhi, and chairs on Shri Guru Nanak Devji will be set up at one university each in the United Kingdom and Canada.
ALSO READ | Pakistan backtracks, says no formal communication with India on opening Kartarpur Sahib corridor; Akali Dal accuses Sidhu of lying
The Centre will also release commemorative coin and postage stamps for the occasion, and the Indian Railways will run a train that will pass through all the holy sites associated with Guru Nanak Dev.
As part of efforts to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019, Indian missions overseas will be asked to organise special events. The finance minister said the Centre will also request UNESCO to publish Guru Nanak's writings in world languages.
A committee led by the home minister will regularly review, monitor and oversee the implementation of the activities commemorating Guru Nanak Dev's 550th birth anniversary.
PAK CONVEYS TO INDIA ITS DECISION TO OPEN KARTARPUR CORRIDOR
Pakistan has conveyed to India its decision to open Kartarpura Corridor for Guru Nanak's 550th birth anniversary, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Thursday, even as the Foreign Office here said it cannot do much unless New Delhi responds.
"Pakistan has already conveyed to India its decision to open Kartarpura Corridor for Baba Guru Nanak's 550th birth anniversary. PM Imran Khan will do break ground at Kartarpura facilities on 28th November. We welcome the Sikh community to Pakistan for this auspicious occasion," Qureshi said in a tweet.
Qureshi's statement came hours after India urged Pakistan to build a corridor to Katarpur Sahib to facilitate easy movement of Indian pilgrims to the shrine -- the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India has approached the Pakistani government to recognise the sentiments of the Sikh community and build the corridor, in keeping with the resolution adopted by the Cabinet Thursday to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev next year.
"... We have approached and urged the Pakistan government to recognise the sentiments of Sikh community and build a corridor with suitable facilities in their territory to facilitate easy and smooth visits of pilgrims from India to Kartarpur Sahib throughout the year," he said.
India has approached and urged the Pakistan government to recognize the sentiments of Sikh community and build a corridor with suitable facilities in their territory to facilitate easy & smooth visits of pilgrims from India to Kartarpur Sahib throughout the year. pic.twitter.com/1oq0TWx7bD— ANI (@ANI) November 22, 2018
In response, Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said Pakistan Prime Minister (Imran) Khan has proposed in writing to hold talks on all issues, including Kartarpura, but India refused to come forward.
He said Pakistan's efforts were continuing and it issued 3,838 visas to Indian Sikhs to visit Pakistan to attend religious ceremonies.
"We on our part will continue our efforts but we cannot do much unless there is response from the other side," Faisal said.
PUNJAB CHIEF MINISTER AMARINDER SINGH WELCOMES CENTRE'S MOVE TO OPEN KARTARPUR CORRIDOR
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh welcomed Thursday the Centre's decision to build and develop a corridor to facilitate Sikh pilgrims from India to visit holy Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Pakistan.
"The move will facilitate lakhs of pilgrims desirous of visiting the Kartarpur gurdwara," Singh said in a statement in Chandigarh.
In its statement, the chief minister hailed the resolution passed by the Union cabinet to celebrate the historic occasion in a befitting manner, in response to the various letters and submissions he had made to the prime minister on this issue.
Singh also expressed happiness at the Cabinet's decision to develop the historic town of Sultanpur Lodhi, associated with the life of first Sikh guru, as a heritage town, on the lines of a smart city.
He also appreciated other decisions of the Cabinet to promote the ideology and message of Guru Nanak Dev, including the development of 'Pind Babe Nanak da' museum, upgradation of Sultanpur Lodhi railway station, creation of a centre for inter-faith studies and chairs in foreign universities, release of commemorative coin and postage stamps etc, as was demanded by the state government in its memorandum to the Centre.
The chief minister lauded the Centre's decision to celebrate the event through a series of activities across the country and globally.
NAVJOT SINGH SIDHU, SUKHBIR SINGH BADAL, AAP LAUD MOVE
Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has been a staunch supporter of the construction of the corridor, took to Twitter to welcome the Union Cabinet's decision. He wrote: "I welcome this auspicious step by the Union Cabinet, it will be a cup of joy for 12 Crore ‘Nanak Naam Laivas.’ It will build bridges, burn animosity and will act like a soothing balm for two neighbouring countries"
I welcome this auspicious step by the Union Cabinet, it will be a cup of joy for 12 Crore ‘Nanak Naam Laivas.’ It will build bridges, burn animosity and will act like a soothing balm for two neighbouring countries. #GuruNanakJayanti #Kartarpurcorridor— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) November 22, 2018
He also asked the government to take into consideration the Sikh community the world over when appealing to Pakistan to continue the corridor on their side of the border.
I humbly request the Government of India to dispense their duty towards 12 Crore ‘Nanak Naam Laivas’ world over, by writing to the Pakistan Government. I hope the draft for the letter is ready as promised by Hon’ble EAM Sushma Ji.— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) November 22, 2018
Sidhu had earlier raised this issue with Union External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in connection with the opening of Kartarpur corridor. He had said it was the responsibility of the Indian government to make a formal request to Pakistan for it.
Sidhu's visit to Pakistan to attend Imran Khan's swearing-in ceremony as prime minister of Pakistan in August this year had come under fire from the Opposition for his hug to Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Sidhu had claimed that the Pakistan army chief had told him about “making efforts to open the Kartarpur corridor”.
Even Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had ticked off his Cabinet colleague for hugging the Pakistan army chief.
Former Punjab Chief Minister and President of Shiromani Akali Dal Sukhbir Singh Badal also lauded the move. Speaking to reporters he said; "It's a historic day for the entire Sikh community and we would like to thank PM Modi and his Cabinet.This has been a wish of each and every Sikh".
Hailing the Union government's move, opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said it has fulfilled the wish of Sikh 'sangat' (community) residing around the globe.
In a joint statement, the Leader of Opposition in Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Harpal Singh Cheema and chief spokesperson MLA Baljinder Kaur, also appealed to the Centre to simplify visa requirements to visit other religious places in Pakistan as well.
The leaders also demanded to set up an office of External Affairs ministry at Amritsar to assist the pilgrims visiting the religious places exclusively.