Uproar over Manmohan ‘visiting’ Pakistan; Amarinder says unlikely

Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Kartarpur corridor, Kartarpur Gurdwara, Amarinder Singh
The Chief Minister and the former PM met at the latter’s residence on Thursday (October 3) (Twitter)

Hours after it was reported that former prime minister Manmohan Singh had agreed to join the first ‘jatha‘ (delegation) to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan following the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said he did not believe that the former PM had any plans to “visit” that country.

The Chief Minister and the former PM met at the latter’s residence on Thursday (October 3), following which Amarinder said he had invited Manmohan for the ‘jatha‘. He had also told reporters that Manmohan had agreed to join the ‘jatha‘.

The statement led to a massive uproar as Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said that they were planning to invite Manmohan for the opening ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor. Sources had indicated that the former PM was not likely to attend the opening ceremony.

Also read | India, Pakistan agree on visa-free travel of Indian pilgrims to Kartarpur

Hours after he made the statement, Amarinder clarified, saying, “There is no question of me going (to Pakistan for the Kartarpur Corridor opening) and I feel Manmohan Singh will not go as well.”

News agency PTI said that he pointed out the difference between visiting Pakistan and going to the gurdwara through the Kartarpur Corridor.

The corridor will connect Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of Punjab and is being built to connect devotees on either side of the border on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. The corridor will facilitate visa-free movement of pilgrims, who will only have to obtain a permit to visit the gurudwara.

Also read | India, Pakistan to hold third round of talks on Kartarpur corridor

Earlier in the day, the Punjab CM had also invited President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the 550th Prakash Purb celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, including the historic opening of the Kartarpur Corridor. In separate meetings with the two leaders, he urged them to join the mega celebrations to mark the auspicious occasion, the report said.

CM Singh had told reporters that both Kovind and Modi had accepted his government’s invitation to be part of the historic celebrations and that the modalities of their visits would be chalked out after the Kartarpur Corridor opening programme was finalised with Pakistan.

An official spokesperson said that the chief minister had particularly urged them both to take part in the Kartarpur Corridor opening at Dera Baba Nanak and the main programme at Sultanpur Lodhi on November 12.

“Former PM Dr Manmohan Singh accepts Captain Amarinder Singhs invite to join 1st Jatha to Sri Kartarpur Gurdwara on November 9, will also attend Sultanpur Lodhi main event (sic),” the CM’s media adviser, Raveen Thukral, had tweeted.

Also read | Pak to invite, but Manmohan Singh unlikely to attend Kartarpur ceremony

However, the Punjab CM ruled out a visit to Pakistan for the Kartarpur Corridor opening, making it clear that he would only be leading the first all-party ‘jatha’ to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara to pay obeisance. CM Singh’s remarks came after a section of the media claimed that the former Prime Minister had accepted Pakistan’s invitation and would be going across the border for the Kartarpur Corridor inauguration.

The former prime minister had accepted the Punjab Chief Minister’s invitation to join the “jatha”, to be led by the latter through the Kartarpur Corridor, to pay obeisance at the historic gurdwara across the border on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, an official spokesperson pointed out.

As far as visiting Pakistan was concerned, the CM reiterated that he would not go to the neighbouring country till it stopped cross-border terrorism. He said that Punjab was the worst sufferer of Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism and he could not even think of going there till it stopped.

Also read | Former PM Manmohan Singh to be part of first jatha to Kartarpur Sahib

Asked if Pakistan was playing a dirty game over the Kartarpur Corridor, the chief minister told the mediapersons to put this question to Imran Khan, the prime minister of the neighbouring country. India, on its part, was fully geared to ensure the security and safety of the pilgrims, he was quoted as saying by PTI.

Earlier, during his meeting with the prime minister, the chief minister also urged for his personal intervention to facilitate the political clearance to allow the special all-party “jatha” to visit Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, the birth place of the first Sikh guru, on the historic occasion.

He requested that a group of 21 persons might be allowed to visit Nankana Sahib to organise a “path” (reading of religious scriptures) on the occasion of the 550th Prakash Purb from October 30 to November 3 and bring a “Nagar Kirtan” to Sultanpur Lodhi via Amritsar (Wagah) later in the day.

(With inputs from agencies)

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