As Modi thanks Imran on Kartarpur, Pakistan rakes up Kashmir, Ayodhya

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KARTARPUR / LAHORE: On a day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked Pakistan PM Imran Khan for “understanding and respecting the sentiments of Indians” by allowing the opening of the Kartarpur corridor, the latter again raised the Kashmir issue while speaking at the corridor’s inauguration ceremony. Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also brought up Kashmir and even the Ayodhya judgment, prompting a sharp response from New Delhi.
Qureshi suggested before Indian journalists that the judgment was advanced on purpose by the Indian government to coincide with the Kartarpur opening. His ministry followed it up with a statement that the Ayodhya judgment had failed to uphold the demands of justice. It also called upon India to ensure protection of lives and rights of Muslims.
Pakistan President Arif Alvi took to Twitter to describe the SC judgment as “an unfortunate verdict”. He further posted, “Indian Supreme Court decides that a temple is to (be) built at Ayodhya/Babri Masjid site showing clearly it has consistently sided with the extreme policies of the BJP and reflects a Hindutva ethos to the detriment of secular India.”
The Indian government swiftly rejected the “unwarranted and gratuitous” comments on a civil matter it said was completely internal to India. “It pertains to the rule of law and equal respect for all faiths, concepts that are not part of their ethos. So, while Pakistan’s lack of comprehension is not surprising, their pathological compulsion to comment on our internal affairs with the obvious intent of spreading hatred is condemnable,” said the government.
Speaking at Kartarpur, Imran Khan appealed to Modi to free bilateral ties of the Kashmir issue by resolving it.
Pakistan PM Imran Khan on Saturday took a dig at his Indian counterpart, saying that leaders bring people together, not spread hate to win votes.
“After what has happened there, Kashmir is no longer a territorial issue. It is now an issue of insanity,” said Khan, adding that the plight of the people in Kashmir was comparable with that of animals.
Khan said there could be no peace in the current circumstances when, according to him, 80 lakh people had been subjugated by a 9-lakh-strong force. “This one issue has brought everything in bilateral ties to a halt. It is important that the Kashmir issue is resolved to help us live like normal people,” said Khan, calling upon Modi to ensure insaaf (justice) for the Kashmiri people.
Recalling his meeting with Manmohan Singh, when the latter was PM, Khan said Singh had told him everything would fall in place if the Kashmir issue was resolved. “I said the same thing to Modi when I met him and, if he’s listening, I want to tell him that our relations should be freed of this issue. It can lead to peace and open borders resulting in trade from which both countries will benefit,” said Khan.
The Pakistan PM was addressing a gathering of thousands of pilgrims at the sprawling Kartarpur Sahib complex, much of which has been built in a record time of 12 months. Indian government sources said earlier this week that the unusual alacrity and “military zeal” with which the corridor had been built suggested that the project had full backing of the Pakistan army. While Indian officials have welcomed Kartarpur as a possible corridor of peace, they also maintain that it serves a strategic purpose for Pakistan.
Meanwhile, PM Modi, who wore an orange turban for the occasion, flagged off the first jatha of over 500 pilgrims — including former PM Manmohan Singh and his wife, chief minister Amarinder Singh and his MP wife, Union ministers Hardeep Singh Puri and Som Parkash, former Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and Akali Dal leaders Parkash Singh Badal, his son Sukhbir and daughter-in-law Harsimrat, an Union minister.
“I feel blessed that I am dedicating the Kartarpur corridor to the country. At the moment, I am getting the same feeling which you get at the time of doing kar seva (religious service),” said Modi, who was conferred the Qaumi Seva award by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).
Modi, who started the day by paying obeisance at Gurdwara Ber Sahib in Sultanpur Lodhi, in his speech at the rally in Shikar Macchian village thanked Imran, saying: “He understood India’s feelings on the Kartarpur corridor issue, gave them respect and worked accordingly.”
Modi, who saw the Beri tree and the Bhaura (underground closet), where according to legend Guru Nanak used to meditate in Sultanpur Lodhi, said, “Besides being a guru, Guru Nanak Dev is a thought, the basis of life. Our values, culture, our thoughts, our thinking, our upbringing, our reasoning, our speech, all of these have been honed by pious souls like Guru Nanak.”
Modi also talked about abrogation of Article 370 and how it had benefited Sikhs. “Removal of Article 370 would now help the Sikh community in J&K and Ladakh as they would get the same rights as other citizens of the country.”
After opening the state-of-the-art passenger terminal building, designed in the shape of ‘Khanda’ — the symbol of Sikhism, Modi had langar with Punjab governor V P Singh Badnore, Amarinder, Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar and other dignitaries.

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