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Groundbreaking of Kartarpur Corridor: Can’t we form a Franco-German like union?

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November 29, 2018

LAHORE: Supporting trade between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said both sides should move ahead with determination to bring prosperity in the region.

“If France and Germany can move ahead while making a union, why can’t we; the Pakistan Army, national institutions and political parties are on the same page, we want to move ahead, we want a civilised relationship, only a leadership with determination is needed on both sides of the borders to solve the issues,” said the prime minister while addressing the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, situated in Shakargarh, just a few miles from the Indo-Pak border in Narowal.

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sindhu, Indian Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Nurul Haq Qadri also addressed the ceremony. Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa attended the ceremony as well.

Addressing the guests, most of them Sikh Yatrees from India, the prime minister said Kashmir was the only issue between India and Pakistan that could be resolved if the leadership of both sides showed determination. He said the perception that the Pakistan Army wasn’t willing to solve the Kashmir issue wasn’t right as the country’s armed forces, its institutions and politicians were on the same page over this issue and wanted a solution.

“The past has stopped us from moving ahead and we will continue to be stuck in differences unless we break this chain, past can only teach us a lesson, we have to decide now that come what may, we have to improve our ties, we have to live like good neighbours,” said the prime minister amid applauds from the crowd. He said millions of people lost lives in wars between France and Germany but today they had opened borders, they could not even think of going for a war now while keeping in view their connections of business and investment.

“Just look at the potential between the two sides, how much they can benefit if trade starts and the relationship is improved,” he said, citing the example of China which successfully rid its huge population of poverty and urged both sides to learn from this spirit.

“There is no country in the world which saved its 700 million people from poverty just because its leadership showed farsightedness. Today, we all must think of regional issues like poverty, health challenges, especially to minors suffering from stunted growth due to malnutrition. Our genuine leadership must think of the poor and the best way to alleviate poverty in the Subcontinent is to foster peace and promote bilateral trade, I assure if India moves once step ahead, Pakistan will move two steps further,” said the PM. He went on to say that both India and Pakistan were nuclear powers and couldn’t afford a war as it would be insane to think of it. “What else is the option left other than friendship and opening of borders,” said Imran.

Praising Indian Minister for Tourism Navjot Singh Sindhu, he said he was so popular in Pakistan that he could even win election if he contested from here. He thanked the Indian ministers and foreign delegates for attending the ceremony and said he witnessed such happiness on the faces of Sikhs today as Muslims feel when they go to Medina.

Speaking about his cricket days, the PM said: "There were two kinds of cricketers, one who were scared of losing and took no chance and the other who took risk and were always successful." He said when he entered politics, he also came across two kinds of politicians. One who sacrificed the public good for their own benefit and the other who thought about the society, did not spread hate, took chances and big decisions.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi thanked the foreign delegates for attending the ceremony. "Today, we are standing where Baba Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life. Baba Guru Nanak spread the message of love and peace and I don't think it is appropriate to associate him with any one community or religion."

Stating that Islam promotes peace, Qureshi quoted the founder of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. "You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

"For a peaceful South Asia, we have to take more steps such as the Kartarpur Corridor," he asserted. "The whole world welcomed the decision to construct the Kartarpur Corridor," he added.

Later, in the evening, the prime minister paid a visit to Sialkot and at a ceremony laid the foundation stone of the new campus of the Government College Women University (GCWU) on the Aimanabad Road. The new campus would be constructed over 200 acres at a cost of Rs 1.622 billion.

Meanwhile, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa termed the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor a "step towards peace" which the region needed.

"It’s a step towards peace which our region needs," the army chief was quoted as saying by DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Twitter. "Barbed wire at borders is a measure by a sovereign state to check or deny illegal crossings," General Bajwa said. "Corridors and gates are for legal peaceful visitors. So is the case for all our neighbours."

The DG ISPR criticised the Indian media for subjecting the Kartarpur Corridor initiative to propaganda. He shared images of an Indian channel purporting a Khalistan activist meeting General Bajwa, at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor. He said the channel flashed the images with incendiary captions, "Pakistan provokes India at Kartarpur ceremony" and "Khalistani extremist Gopal Chawla with the Pakistan Army chief."

Ghafoor responded to the baseless propaganda, saying: "The Indian media taking a myopic view is selectively showing Mr Gopal Chawla meeting the COAS.” He lamented subjecting of a peace initiative between the two countries after decades to baseless propaganda. "The army chief met all guests at the venue irrespective of [their] identity," the DG said.