Pakistan invites ex-Indian PM to Kartarpur road inauguration

KARACHI, Pakistan

Pakistan Monday invited India’s former premier to the inauguration of a key border crossing for Sikh pilgrims, while the two nuclear armed neighbors suffer inflamed tensions over New Delhi’s controversial Kashmir move last month.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said his country decided to invite Manmohan Singh “after consultations”, a move which is seen considered as a diplomatic bid to isolate India’s nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“I, as the foreign minister of Pakistan, invite Sardar [an honorific to all Sikhs] Manmohan Singh to attend the inauguration ceremony of this (Kartarpur corridor),” Qureshi said in a written statement.

Pakistan and India are set to open the Kartarpur border, which connects Pakistan’s northeastern Narowal city to India’s western Gurdaspur district, ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion.

The celebrations are set to be held in November in Pakistan.

Qureshi said a written invitation would also be sent to the two-time Indian premier.

Pakistan also invited the Sikh community from across the globe, including India to attend the celebrations marking the birth of Baba Guru Nanak.

Kartarpur Sahib Temple is one of the most revered temples for the Sikh community as Baba Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life there.

The distance between the temple and Gurdaspur is merely 3 kilometers (2 miles) but the closure of this crossing costs Sikh pilgrims from India to travel hundreds of kilometers, via Amritsar and Lahore, to reach here.

Tensions between the two South Asian nuclear neighbors have mounted following the Indian government’s move on Aug. 5 to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir has been under a near-complete lockdown since then, with the government blocking communication access and imposing restrictions on movement to thwart any protests in the region.

New Delhi said that 93% of the restrictions have been eased in the conflict-ridden region, a claim that Anadolu Agency could not independently verify.

India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.
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