Kashmiris welcome goodwill measures between India and Pakistan, says Mirwaiz Umar Farooq

Navjot Singh Sidhu addresses the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kartarpur Corridor in Kartarpur Pakistan

Navjot Singh Sidhu addresses the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kartarpur Corridor in Kartarpur Pakistan

The foundation stone of the much-awaited corridor was laid by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday at Kartarpur in Pakistan in a grand ceremony.

"Hopefully we will not have to wait for Sidhu to become prime minister for relations to improve between the two countries and before that, Indian leadership will take positive steps", Khan said.

Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu performed the groundbreaking Monday on his side of the corridor at a ceremony just two kilometers from the Pakistani border.

"The only issue between us is Kashmir, all it needs is just two capable leaderships to resolve this issue".

"#Kashmir finds a mention at the groundbreaking of the #KartarpuraCorridor". We have one issue - Kashmir, he added. "Makes it sound so simple", Omar wrote on twitter. Situated in Pakistan's Kartarpur town, Gurudwara Darbar Sahib is among the holiest sites for Sikh community.

India and Pakistan made some headway in improving their relations by announcing to jointly-construct a border crossing for millions of Indian Sikhs who have long desired to visit the shrine of Sikhism's founder, Guru Nanak, which is nestled in Kartarpur, in the Narowal district of Punjab, almost five kilometers away from Pakistan's eastern border. Navjote Singh Sidhu, a Punjab minister, already said that Bajwa told him during his visit to Pakistan to attend Khan's oath-taking ceremony that Islamabad may open the corridor to Kartarpur Sahib.

The new government in Pakistan, it is believed, has inherited a parlous economy and faces much stronger pressure from the United States under a Trump presidency than had been the case before.

Khan's remarks came a day after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj categorically ruled out the possibility of holding talks with Pakistan unless it stops cross-border terror activities.

Earlier, Pakistan invited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend a regional summit in Pakistan next year. "People want peace", he said. The reference to neither India nor Pakistan being in a position to "win" a nuclear war also raised eyebrows.

Speaking at the event, PM Khan said the happiness he has seen on the Sikh attendees' faces was the same he could imagine seeing on Muslim people's faces if they were four kilometres from the Holy Kaaba and finally allowed to visit it.

Swaraj also requested in a tweet that Islamabad "expedite construction of the corridor in order to ensure that our citizens can pay their respects at the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor as soon as possible".

The development comes ahead of Guru Nanak's 550th birth anniversary next year. "I am very happy that while for the last 20 years, the government of India has been asking for this Kartarpur corridor, for the first time, Pakistan responded positively".

Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu courted a fresh controversy on Thursday, 29 November, after pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Chawla posted a picture with the Congress leader on Facebook. The country's elites and the establishment has been feeling the heat as the USA and other western nations seek action against terrorist groups based in Pakistan.

An Indian delegation consisting of Indian ministers and journalists attended the ceremony. Yet, as I had argued before, India's Kartarpur misstep and Sidhu's antics have created the space for Pakistan this bluff.

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