Sushma Swaraj Declines Pakistan Invite For Pilgrim Corridor

New Delhi, Nov 25 In a thawing of almost frozen bilateral ties, India on Saturday responded positively to Pakistan's invitation for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan, saying two senior Sikh ministers will represent New Delhi.Responding to an invitation from Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi for the ceremony on November 28, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Puri will represent the Modi government at the ceremony.Qureshi had extended the invitation to Sushma Swaraj, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, and state minister and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu who has been calling for the opening of the Kartarpur corridor.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 said that given her commitments to the election campaign in Telangana, she would not be able to travel to Pakistan."However, being mindful of the sentiments of our Sikh citizens and the importance of facilitating their smooth and easy access to holy Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, we will be sending Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Minister for Food Processing Industries, and Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs, as government of India's representatives for the event planned for November 28," she said."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. 

IANS

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