By SJA Jafri + Bureau Report + Agencies
KARTARPUR/ NEW DELHI/ ISLAMABAD: India has rejected an offer made by Pakistan on Saturday for the reopening of the Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh pilgrims on June 29, saying that cross-border travel has been suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, India media reported.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan had issued a statement earlier in the day conveying its “readiness” to the Indian side to reopen the corridor on the occasion of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh’s death anniversary on June 29.
“As the religious places are gradually opening up around the world, Pakistan has also made necessary arrangements to reopen Kartarpur Sahib Corridor for Sikh pilgrims,” said the statement.
The statement noted that the Corridor was inaugurated last year on November 9, three days before the 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, fulfilling “the long awaited desire of Sikh devotees of the international community”.
The statement described the Corridor as “a true symbol of peace and religious harmony” and how the landmark initiative “has been immensely appreciated by the Sikh community all over the world including India”.
“The first Guru of Sikhism, Baba Guru Nanak Saheb, had spent the last 18 years of his life in Kartarpur,” it added.
According to the statement, the Corridor was “temporarily closed on 16 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic” and Pakistan is now looking to reopen it after SOPs are put in place with joint consultation between both sides.
India, in response to Pakistan’s gesture, described it as “a mirage of goodwill”, according to TOI.
“Government sources said this would only undermine the bilateral agreement which required India to share information with Pakistan a week before the date of arrival,” the publication added.
Wagah border reopened
Earlier this week, the country reopened the Wagah border between the two countries for three days to repatriate Indians stranded in Pakistan.
According to the interior ministry, 748 Indians stranded in Pakistan due to the coronavirus lockdown, were to return to their country in three phases.
In the first and second batches, 250 Indian nationals each were repatriated while the third batch was made up of the remaining 248 Indian nationals, the interior ministry said, adding that the Indian nationals were in different cities of Pakistan.
Work begins on first Hindu temple in Islamabad
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved the release of funds for the construction of the first Hindu temple in Islamabad.
In a meeting with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNAs Jay Parkash, Shanila Ruth, Laal Chand, Ramesh Kumar and Jamshed Thomas on Friday, the Prime Minister issued directives for accelerating the legislation process to protect minorities’ rights.
The temple is being constructed in the federal capital’s H-9/2 sector on a four-kanal plot of land allocated especially by the government.
The prime minister lauded the contribution of the minority community in the progress and prosperity of Pakistan and said it was the government’s priority to ensure the provision of equal opportunities for minorities and to protect their rights.