Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu delivered an emotional, rousing speech at the foundation stone-laying ceremony for the Kartarpur Corridor Project in Pakistan on Wednesday. The Punjab minister also heaped praise on Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, whom he called his friend.
The Kartarpur Corridor Project will link the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, in Pakistan's Kartarpur to Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur. The groundbreaking ceremony in Punjab took place on Monday.
"With this, Imran Khan has ended 70 years of wait... Long live India, long live Pakistan," Hindustan Timesquoted Sidhu as saying.
Sidhu, who has often courted controversy with his off-the-cuff remarks, said the corridor would end the tensions between India and Pakistan. Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, who has accused Pakistan's ISI of supporting pro-Khalistan groups, had turned down Paksitan's invitation to attend the ceremony,
According to NDTV, Sidhu called for peace between the two countries, saying that "Guru Nanak had said 550 years ago that there was no discrimination on the basis of religion in our country... Peace must prevail, bloodshed must end. This corridor will unite people. This is a miracle".
Sidhu said that it was time that the governments of India and Pakistan realised that the countries needed to move forward:
Union Ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Puri also spoke at the event.
The Kartarpur Corridor will also facilitate visa-free travel for Indian Sikhs pilgrims to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.
Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had first proposed the idea in 1999 when he took the first bus to Lahore. The plan got shelved after tensions rose between the two countries again.