Islamabad - Amid increasing signs of a thaw between the two neighbours, two Indian ministers will attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpura corridor in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan will perform the groundbreaking ceremony of the facilities on the Pakistani side of the border on November 28.

Earlier on Saturday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi invited Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to visit the country to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpura corridor.

Later in the evening, Sushma Swaraj said she will not visit Pakistan to attend the ground-breaking ceremony for the Kartarpura corridor but two of her cabinet colleagues will attend it, her office in New Delhi said.

Thanking Mr Qureshi, Ms Swaraj said she will not be able to attend the ceremony because of prior commitments including campaigning for the Telangana Assembly elections. Indian ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri will travel to Pakistan instead.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also expressed the hope that the Kartarpura corridor would act as a bridge between the peoples of India and Pakistan.

A long-pending demand of the Sikh community to build a religious corridor linking a historic gurdwara in Pakistani city of Narowal with India’s border district of Gurdaspur may finally be fulfilled with both the countries announcing that stretches would be developed in their respective areas.

Apart from Sushma Swaraj, Foreign Minister Qureshi also invited Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amrinder Singh and cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to the ceremony.

Tweeting under the hashtag #PakistanKartarpurSpirit, Qureshi said “On behalf of Pakistan I have extended an invitation to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj @SushmaSwaraj , Capt Amarinder Singh @capt_amarinder & Navjot Singh Sidhu @sherryontopp to attend the groundbreaking ceremony at #Kartarpura on 28 Nov, 2018.”

“The world could see Pakistan’s positive approach towards India and its intentions,” Qureshi said.

The foreign minister said Islamabad has decided to open the Kartarpura Corridor for the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in 2019. The corridor opening is also reflective of the importance and primacy that Pakistan gives to all minorities, Qureshi said.

He further said the move is in line with the principles of Islam and the Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of a peaceful neighbourhood. Pakistan’s initiative will further facilitate Sikhs, especially from India. Pakistan’s Kartarpura spirit can be a step forward in the right direction from conflict to cooperation, animosity to peace and enmity to friendship, he added.

Speaking on the occasion of the birth anniversary of first Sikh Guru Nanak Dev in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hoped the Kartarpura corridor would act as a bridge between the peoples of India and Pakistan that might lead to a better future as he referred to the fall of the Berlin Wall to underline the importance of people-to-people contact.

The Indian prime minister also referred to the Partition and said, “What has happened in 1947 has happened.”

He said the issues between the governments and the armies would continue and only time will show the way out. Underlining the strength of people-to-people contact, the Indian prime minister said, “Had anyone ever thought that the Berlin Wall would fall. Maybe with the blessings of Guru Nanak Devji, this Kartarpura corridor will not just remain a corridor, but act as a bridge between the peoples of the two countries.”

Also on Saturday, Navjot Singh Sidhu confirmed receiving an invitation from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s office to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpura corridor in Pakistan. Speaking to Indian Express, Sidhu said, “I got a call from Pakistan Prime Minister’s office on Friday. It was the same person who had called me when I was invited for the swearing-in ceremony.”

“I will go if the Government of India allows me to go. It will be a great honour to be part of history. There will not be a happier moment than the time when my turban touches the ground where Guru Nanak Dev once walked. It was an unfulfilled wish of my parents,” he added.

When asked if he will attend the ceremony on the Indian side of the border on November 26th, the Indian Punjab local bodies minister said, “I will certainly go if I am invited.”

The former cricketer has often spoken about the need for the two countries to have friendly relations. He visited the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan in August 2018. During his visit, Sidhu also met with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, which invited vicious criticism and attacks by hardliners in India.

General Bajwa had told Sidhu that the Pakistan government will open the Dera Baba Nanak (Kartarpura) corridor on Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary. The former Indian cricketer had later raised the matter with Sushma Swaraj, saying it was India’s responsibility to make a formal request to Pakistan.

Indian cabinet on Thursday last gave the go-ahead to Pakistan’s proposal to build Kartarpura corridor to facilitate Sikh pilgrims wishing to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Narowal District near the Indian border.

PA speaker invited to Indian corridor opening

Staff Reporter from Lahore adds: Indian Punjab Chief Minister Captain (r) Amarinder Singh has felicitated Punjab Assembly Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi on opening of Kartarpura corridor and invited him to visit Indian Punjab.

His message was conveyed on phone to Ch Parvez by a Senior Minister Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi on Saturday. The PA speaker accepted Singh’s invitation.

Parvez said that credit for opening of Kartarpura border goes to Prime Minister Imran Khan and COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa. He also invited Amarinder to visit Punjab.

In 2005, on a special invitation by the then Punjab CM Ch Parvez Elahi, Amarinder had visited Lahore and had laid the foundation stone of Wagah to Nankana Sahib dual carriageway. Nankana Sahib was also given district status during Ch Parvez’s term as CM.