Former Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Saturday sought permission from the external affairs ministry to attend the inaugural ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan on November 9.
The cricketer-turned-politician also wrote a letter to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who forwarded it to the chief secretary for necessary action.
In a letter to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Sidhu said he had been invited by the Pakistan government for the opening ceremony of the corridor, which will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district in Punjab .
“As a humble Sikh, it shall be a great honour to pay obeisance to our great Guru Baba Nanak on this historic occasion and connect to our roots,” wrote Sidhu, who is a legislator from Amritsar East.
“Therefore, I may be permitted to visit Pakistan for this auspicious occasion,” the former minister said.
The corridor will facilitate visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the Ravi river.
Sidhu had come under fire from the opposition after he hugged Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa during the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan in August last year.
Sidhu had then also claimed that Gen Bajwa had told him about “making efforts to open the Kartarpur corridor”.
An official spokesperson said the Punjab chief minister had received Sidhu’s letter seeking permission to visit the neighbouring nation on Saturday morning and he immediately forwarded it to the state chief secretary.
Amarinder Singh said that along with all other MLAs, Sidhu had also been invited to join an all-party ‘Jatha’ going from Punjab to Kartarpur Sahib via the corridor on November 9.
The Amritsar DC had been pursuing the matter with Sidhu’s office, but the latter had failed to respond, Amarinder Singh alleged.
The chief minister also lamented the “politicisation” of the Kartarpur corridor, saying it was in violation of the ideology of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, whose 550th birth anniversary is being celebrated this year.
“India should have stood as one, especially considering the deeper agenda which seemed to be behind the Pakistan’s decision to open the corridor and also to set up a university in the name of the first Sikh guru, but instead the whole issue had been politicised for vested interests,” he said in a statement.
The chief minister reiterated his stance that “politics should have been put aside and the mega event should have been left to be organised by the state government, as per past practice on such occasions”.
He said he still had his suspicions about Pakistan’s intent and believed the corridor opening to be an operation of Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence aimed at wooing the Sikh community for the Referendum 2020, being promoted under the guise of Sikhs for Justice forum.
“We have to be on our toes,” Amarinder Singh said, warning India against taking Pakistan at its face value, especially in view of the heightened ISI activity being noted in Punjab in recent months.
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