The opening of the historic Kartarpur corridor was the brainchild of Pakistan's Army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and it will hurt India for ever, a top Pakistani minister claimed on Saturday, contradicting his government's assertion that the idea was that of the Prime Minister, Mr. Imran Khan.
On November 9, Mr. Imran Khan inaugurated the Kartarpur corridor to facilitate the visa-free entry of Indian Sikh pilgrims to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev. Mr. Khan had told a gathering of over 12,000 devotees, including the former prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and cricketer-turned-politician, Mr. Navjot Singh Sidhu: 'I had no idea of the importance this place holds. I found out a year ago. I am happy we could do this for you.’
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government has claimed that the Kartarpur corridor was the initiative of Mr. Imran Khan. However, Pakistan's Railways Minister, Sheikh Rashid, a known motor-mouth considered to be a close aide of the Prime Minister, contradicted the claim when he told reporters the opening of the corridor was the brainchild of the Army chief and asserted that it will hurt India for ever.
'India will remember forever the kind of wound inflicted on it by Gen Bajwa by opening Kartarpur corridor,' he said. 'Gen. Bajwa strongly hit India by opening the corridor. Through this project, Pakistan has created a new environment of peace and won itself love of the Sikh community, ' he said.
Mr. Rashid claimed that the Indian media 'played up' the issue of Gen.l Bajwa's extension. 'The Imran Khan government has three more years and Gen. Bajwa has got three years in extension and not six months. So our government will complete its tenure,' he said, indirectly referring that Gen. Bajwa is here to back Mr. Imran Khan's government.
Gen. Bajwa did not attend the Kartarpur Corridor's opening ceremony apparently to avoid any controversy. In the ground breaking ceremony on November 28 last year, the hug of Mr. Sidhu with Gen. Bajwa had sparked a controversy.
The inauguration also came in the midst of frayed ties between India and Pakistan following New Delhi's August 5 decision to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir's special status and bifurcate the State.
Notwithstanding a chill in the bilateral ties over Kashmir, India and Pakistan after tough negotiations signed an agreement in October, paving the way for the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor on November 9. The agreement will allow 5,000 Indian pilgrims daily to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib where Guru Nanak spent last 18 years of his life.
In February 1999, the Kartarpur corridor was proposed by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee when he took a bus ride to Lahore during a peace initiative with Pakistan. It links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India's Gurdaspur district.